I think as artists we all have days where we ask ourselves this question: “Why?”
Sitting down to write or create something, putting our stories out into the world can feel pointless.
It doesn’t matter what your medium of choice is, the fact is; being an artist of any kind doesn’t have many of the perks that a so called “real” job has.
No financial security, no status, nothing resembling a nod of approval for the important work we do.
Sometimes I do wonder. Is it important?
After all when it comes to life and death, fighting oppression and making the world a better place, a pretty children’s story or a contemporary dance piece are not part of the obvious work that we think should be done.
It’s already hard to find value in art when everything is rosy and sweet unless you’re an artist. When the world is looking bleak, like it does nowadays, even I, strict defender of the arts, find it difficult to believe that sharing my words, my stories, a piece of my own vision is the most worthwhile thing I can do.
I’ve thought a lot about this in the wake of the recent political events that have (it seems) turned the world upside down.
Activists everywhere are waking up and people who never thought of themselves as activists are taking a stand.
Where does that leave artists?
Some say that art can be a tool in bringing social and political change.
If you have ever looked for a justification to do your art when more important things are happening, you probably gladly took this one.
I know I did and I am now.
If I’m being honest I didn’t quite truly believe it until today.
You could say I had an epiphany.
Where did it come from?
It came from asking this question: So what if I’m sitting down writing a story I believe the world doesn’t need?
We are already being bombarded by stories everyday. Stories that we don’t get to choose.
Everyday I read on SnapChat stories about some celebrity’s vacations or sudden acne flareup.
I read on Facebook stuff about an airport officer getting shot and a 2 year old singing perfectly a famous country singer’s song.
One can avoid reading the news you could say. That’s true. But it’s not just about story lines on social media or in the papers.
It goes deeper than that.
The power of stories is at work right now in your life and in your children’s life whether you like it or not.
Whether you realize it or not.
It’s also at work in our neighbor’s life, in our friends, in our enemies, in elected officials. Everyone.
What do I mean?
First, the obvious; what we do, what happened to us, that’s a story. You can’t say that has no power. The past impacts us all in ways we wish it didn’t sometimes. Conversely what you’re doing right now impacts you future, even though you might not want it to.
Secondly, the less obvious but perhaps a lot more powerful; the stories we pick up here and there, the one your grandpa might have told you when you went fishing with him or that time you got caught telling a really good lie. The stories big and small that we use to create. The stories that created us.
The stories that tell us what is important at all in this life.
Being an artist may come without a status but it does come with great power.
If you’re ever in doubt, please:
Never underestimate the power of a really good story.
Especially your own.