I wrote a poem once about keeping my spirit alive – my creative spirit and my spirit of determination.
It can be difficult at times to channel into that aspect when we need to constantly think about all the other real world issues. For the last couple of weeks, covid-19 has ceased regular operations for many of us. This brought various challenges that some have never seen before, and for others, made them worse. Challenges like food insecurity, housing instability, and social isolation.
For those of us who work within the creative sphere, when the hard times hit, we’re often the first affected. We may be on short-term contracts, looking for the next gig, or be a part of a mass lay off.
Sometimes it feels like it’s hard enough justifying why someone needs a creative on their team. Then add on the fact that organizations are being hit with newfound strained budgets; they’re just trying to stay afloat to see a post-coronavirus light. The reality of the creative just got a bit more difficult.
It’s in these moments I find myself asking “Why am I a creative?”
“Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
– Bruce Lee –
Sometimes I have to really dig for this answer. I’ve surrounded myself with many types of people growing up, working in various industries alternative to myself. It’s easy to be dragged by their successes and have that weigh against you. Some work in insurance and government, others in banking and real estate. Though I’ve tried my hand in many of those industries, they don’t quite mesh with me.
After each lesson learned, I repeat the exact same question I started with, “Why am I a creative?”
Under self-induced scrutiny, I try to decipher this map-of-life and figure out the best way to navigate through it. I’m trying to do something I love, pay my bills, and live a fulfilling life. This pulls me in every which direction.
My favourite composer, and jazz great, Charles Mingus said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
Armed with this statement, I boiled down my answer. My sole responsibility is to keep my creative ember crackling.
During ancient times, in both nomadic and civilized senses, there would be a fire keeper – someone responsible with keeping the embers alive, the flame of society alive. Even for nomadic tribes, as they moved from site to site, the fire keeper would tend to the ember throughout the journey.
In those times, the flame was seen as a symbol of life. It gave us the ability to cook and stay warm, thus extreme care was needed to ensure that it never extinguished. The flame was oft revered as a point of praise and religion.
That is our job as creatives, to keep the ember alive within and wherever we find ourselves. Embers can easily burst into full flames and start a fire but it is difficult to start a fire from nothing.
“Write while the heat is in you. The writer who postpones his thoughts uses an iron which has cooled to burn a hole with. He cannot inflame the mind of his audience.”
– Henry William Thoreau –
Our work is not something to be lost and dealt with haphazardly.
We are not direct sellers, we are not accountants, we are not a part of the legal team.
We are storytellers, illustrators, and capturers of the moment.
Creatives are community builders.
Creativity is not simply a skill used to drive economy, though it very well does. It’s a skill used to connect and unite. Without community, our society is nothing. Without creativity, we talk about nothing.
Our job is to stay grounded in reality but also tap into the endless potential of the world around us. We don’t work in silos, we don’t work unilaterally – we are collaborative with others and the wonders that are encapsulated in the world.
This is why we’re so important – we connect. This is the fire we bring into the world.
Oh and that poem? Here it is.
Ember Ember Ember
Do I feed it and let it burn bright
Or do I let it burn out and meet its plight
What is it about fire
It creates and destroys
Provides fuel and sight
Poof to ash or proof of life
Or life that once was
To produce life once again
Crop over, turn over – my heart’s pounding once again
That’s another flame
But the same game
No shame, this is my own lane
It collects and protects, from crash and collision
You can enter my lane but to exit… That’s imminent
I ride on my own, towards the fireball
No clouds even on a rainy day
I say once again what I said before
Feed it and let it burn bright
Dream on and dream more
If I let it burn out, there’s no bringing back these dreams
It stays alive in me like an alien being
Plant this and care for it
Catch it and keep moving like stairs forward
I can’t afford — to move back
Dreams were caught in this dichotomy
You see, what I sought was what I ought to be
You see, these dreams bring sight to be free
To be a dreamer, brings up the flames inside of me
To which it stays
It tears down the world everyday
To leave a bigger, better, and brighter way