I came across a slightly heartbreaking post from a writer, teacher, and journalist a few weeks ago, whom I really admire.
Living in what I can only imagine being a hard-hit Covid-19 area in the United States, she wrote, in paraphrase, “I wish there was something more to I could do than be a useless writer right now.”
As an aspiring writer myself, watching someone I admire so much say these words, hit close to home and I began to wonder if my career path served any value, and then I realized, it does more for this world than we know, and I want the other creatives out there to know how powerful they really are.
The folklore of the frivolous creative
Whether you’re an aspiring painter, novelist, musician or dancer, you may have heard these common phrases uttered to you at some point
- ‘Get a real job and contribute to society’
- ‘Having fun is not a career path’
- ‘That’s cute, but let’s be realistic’
- ‘How are you going to make money?’
- ‘You’re not Stephen King/Frida Khalo/Stevie Nicks. Why bother?”
Now whilst, in our current system, the previous phrases, unfortunately, do hold a certain level of truth, where the amount of money you make out of something often denotes how useful society deems an occupation to be, I think, at a deeper level, it is but a conditioned myth.
Entertainment, relaxation, and spreading awareness
Entertainment and relaxation seem to be the highlight of creative’s abilities right now, with everyone on social media reminding one another to remember who kept them sane during the lockdown.
Beyond this though, creative’s have a deeper pool of wisdom that they can access to provide useful information and awareness in such strange times.
This is not something new. As a writer, Toni Morrison springs to mind as one of the greatest examples of how one can use their creativity to spread awareness around difficult topics.
New worlds, new systems, new ways of being
As creatives, we breathe life into new worlds, and sometimes I think we forget that these worlds do not only have to be found within canvases, the papers of a well-written book, or the cantantes of a soothing musical number – they can spring forth into the empirical as well.
Imagination is just as needed as dry systems’ thinking when it comes to creating better ways of being in the world and especially in a time when everyone’s monkey-mind is on high, when our only options seem to be control and fear, accessing our creativity, I dare say, may even save lives.
[*Important note: Whilst I am highly wary and concerned of government power grabs and the heightening level of surveillance, this previous paragraph is not a permission slip to just run out your homes without masks shouting ‘Viva La Freedom’.]
Capitalisms love-hate relationship with creatives
Ah, my least favourite word in the world besides ‘state’ – ‘capitalism’.
Capitalism only supports one’s creativity if that so-called creativity supports its ability to churn out endless money and productivity for the system.
This is why many artists find themselves resigned to doing ‘creative’ work they don’t enjoy in order to get by and put food on the table.
Use your power, use your privilege
If you have the privilege and time, however little that time may look, of accessing your creative self, please don’t forget that there is more power in your paintbrush and pens then you could ever fathom.
If there was ever a time to get creative, it’s now.
Kill the myth that your artistry is of no real value, give that finger to capitalism, entertain, relax, spread awareness, and perhaps become a part of the creation of a new and better world.