Ok, so, rough week last week. I mean, relatively speaking I am more than fine, but I would be lying if I said that the past several days didn’t shake me, and I’m not likely to be in any particular difficulty or danger any time soon. I know there are lots of people that are. From my own little point of view, I have seen lots of artists, some that I know and some that I don’t, say that they don’t know how to keep creating when they are faced with such discouragement, hostility, and disillusionment. Again, it is relatively easy for me to say this, given my situation, but I know that I am certainly not going to stop writing. If anything, I’m extra determined to keep creating. I hope if any other writers are reading this, you all will too.
I will keep writing because, among other things, this is something that cannot be taken from me. Elections can go bad, jobs can go bad, friendships can end, whatever – I will still be able to write. I will still have imaginary worlds to create and stories to tell. I think they’re interesting and entertaining and hopefully fun to visit and maybe in some small way significant, but at a minimum they are significant to me, and the one thing the world will absolutely not take from me is my ability to create and tell stories and to write. If you take this laptop away (and I mean, it’s a luxury) I will write on paper like I used to. If you take the paper away I will tell the stories in my head like I already do anyway. This is mine. You can’t have it.
I assume it’s similar for other sorts of artists. I can’t draw and I certainly can’t sing or play an instrument, but it strikes me that if you are one of those kinds of artists, you’ve got the same freedom. You can always create. The only thing that can ever stop you is you, so don’t stop.
I think it’s important not to, in part because (and here I’m generalizing what’s true for me to artists overall) creating is a vital part of who we are and we are healthier, better people when we express that gift. I know I always feel better when I’ve written something, because part of me is (on whatever level you want to put it) intended to write and so the whole organism feels good when some writing gets done. To stop doing art is to be a bird that stops flying.
I also think, slightly trite though this sentiment may be, that it is in times of crisis that we (as a society) need art the most. We need things that amaze and astound and delight us when things look bleak. We need things that challenge us when there seems to be only one way things can go. And we need a wide, rich, wonderful diversity of voices and stories especially in times when we’re being threatened by bigotry and discrimination. They want us, me, you, to shut up. Artists have to say no.
A lot of artists are sad or frightened or in pain right now. Take that and make something out of it.
Melodramatic an idea as it may be, there might be someone waiting to hear what you have to say. Something you write may be able to inspire or encourage a person out there who needed to hear it, or even just amuse or entertain them for a brief space of time when they needed a break from the world.
Artists can be part of the voice that speaks up against things that are wrong, can advocate for the causes we know to be right, and take a message to people that otherwise might not hear it. It’s who we are, it’s what we do, and it’s a powerful gift as well as a responsibility.
Out here, a lot of things hurt. Pick up what you can and create.