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Culture

A Question of Worth

Why does society frown upon creativity?

To be honest, I’d never given the matter much thought. I just assumed my anxiety and embarrassment stemming from sharing my work was a personal problem, that the issue was the quality of what I produced. It was easy to place the blame on my abilities and downplay the time I put into creating.

Now, when I reflect on my feelings as an adult, the issue has a newfound transparency. I was embarrassed because the reactions I received from family and friends conditioned the response. I remember being in grade school and telling people I wanted to be an artist or writer. Nearly everyone gave the whole “that’s fine as a hobby” speech.

And with every negative comment, the air from my dream bubble deflated until it was a pile of sad latex laying on the sterile white tile floor of society. Those early comments were powerful and instrumental in shaping how I defined success as an early adult.

I was young when I learned I should hide my passions. Write in secret. Draw when no one is around. Tell no one of what I’d really like to do with my life because it isn’t practical and won’t pay bills.

So… I went to college.

Like a good, sensible girl, I studied a reputable science and even went on for a master’s degree. The student loans piled up and my satisfaction with life dwindled. That’s what they want, right? Corporate America?

Even with my framed degree, name badge, and cute day planner, the drive for creating lingered still. Eventually, I reached motherhood and elected to stay home, deciding the freedom to raise my children without the constant dissatisfaction of my career path would cure my tension. I tried crafting like the other Pinterest moms. I tried flipping furniture I found at yard sales. My hands ached to make something, anything.

It took debilitating postpartum depression for me to dig my way back to the creativity that fueled my curiosity as a child. I saw the dark downward spiral of my emotions and backed away, clinging to a pen and paper with all my might.

If I hadn’t channeled that energy, I can’t say for sure that’d I’d be typing this now, nor do I think I would have had the opportunity to spark my creative spirit without it.

It took motherhood and the freedom to “just be” for me to accept hobbies back into my life. And from hobbies came the yearning to share. Sharing led to income. While income led to the profound realization that everyone who told me I couldn’t make money with words, was full of shit.

How can we take something so powerful from people? Why do we do that?

We celebrate the minds of scientists, the skill of carpenters, the wit of lawyers. So, why is it such a dirty thing to consider yourself an artist? Why is it acceptable to scoff at the dreams of passionate individuals and inform them of their lack of potential income or propensity for accolades?

I’m sure there are lucky ones… The ones that grow up under the rainbow of other artists. They listen to the crackle of old records and watch their parents paint murals while encouraging them to pursue passion and the unknown. Maybe that’s my own biased interpretation of “ideal,” but as a girl from West Virginia and little outside tending to my creative potential, that’s all I have.

As my children grow, I hope they see me tapping away at computer keys and creating new worlds on sheets of paper. I want them to choose whatever dream they see fit and pursue it relentlessly, without fear that I’ll condemn their chosen profession.

Maybe I’m naive or maybe there’s a shift coming.

Maybe in the middle of this global mess, people are rediscovering themselves and what gives them a sense of self actualization. Or, they’re hoarding toilet paper and fighting with the “other side” about who’s right, but I really hope not. I wish for a new Renaissance for this tired world. We need a resurgence of passion and light to bring this world back together.

After all, we’re turning to the arts more than ever. Whether it’s Netflix, a new novel, or a doctor’s personal account from the frontline, our society is turning to the imaginations and voices of others as a means to escape. So, while the world is dim there are flickers that we cling to.

How about when this is over, we quit spitting at the shoes of artists and give them the recognition they deserve?

Comment
by Btleslie

I'm still finding my voice as a writer and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put myself into a "niche." I just have too much to say about too many things. I enjoy writing about home decor and DIY just as much as I need to channel my creativity into pieces about motherhood. I think society is too quick to put us into a category and it's healthy to push back and carve your own path.

-Breanna


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