Monday, December 12, 2016

Making Art in a Time of War: Part One - We Must Keep Creating

"I can't believe I'm etching cups with birds at a time like this."

"My art is so useless."

"I feel sucker punched. What's the point of trying to finish NaNoWriMo this year?"

"Everything I do feels trivial."

In the past couple of months I have had a large number of conversations with friends who, with each new socio-political announcemnet, fatal disaster, and world news event, questioned the worthiness and validity of their artwork.  Usually prolific writers I know put down their pens or spent hour staring at blank screens before giving up entirely on getting words down for a day, then for a week, then for a month.

With each new blow to the artistic community, I have listened to sculptures, painters, and writers question the importance of continuing to tell stories and create art.  It is disheartening to hear artist who know the collective value of art question their own worth within the community and up until now I have had difficulty in articulating my own internal railing against both the state of things in the world and my friends' despair in responding to them.  So here it is: when making art feels useless and writing fiction seems trivial or unimportant, it is even more imperative that we continue to (as said recently at the Night of Writing Dangerously) "battle our dragons" through our fiction and paint our stories in canvas and clay.

It boils down to this: 
We Must Keep Creating.

Artists and writers throughout history have been warriors in their own right.  Continuing to create art and stories in the face of disenfranchisement, overwhelming hatred, and violence is, and has been throughout history, a subversive act.  I would posit that not only should artists and writers continue to create beauty and splash their messages across the social environment for all to see, but that we also have a responsibility to do so.   Whether through our writing, or our photography, art, sculpture, music, or dance, we must put our stories out there. The stories and art of individuals are important! They are vital and necessary, and without them we are lesser as a whole.   

We Must Keep Creating.

"If I see someone hurting, I must speak.  Even if I am afraid, I must speak.  My fear of speaking puts us all at risk."

Fear of speaking puts us as risk, in many ways just as much as speaking out puts us at risk.  Silence in the face of violence kills.  Silence takes lives and destroys souls.  Not everyone is a fighter, we cannot all take up arms against oppression and destruction.  But we are all warriors.  Yes, even you, whose clay sculptures and handmade fairy dresses are sold at local art fairs, whose fictional heroes and heroines battle demons and ride dragons across blogs and novel pages, whose paint is often washed from the side of walls or the underside of bridges.  If you doubt this, or feel burdened by overwhelming fear or sadness, channel that into your work.

Our art is our speaking out. Our stories are our voice, sometimes when we have no other way of fighting back.  Our words and our creations are our responsibility.  And for those whose voices are at risk of being drowned out in the storm surge, we must reach out and lift them up as well.  Share, credit, reblog, quote, point a giant flashing sign, or in some way bolster those whose voices are being lost to tragedy, to prejudice, discrimination, or pain.  If we help hold each other up then perhaps the next hurdle won't feel like climbing Everest when you've never even hiked through the woods.  Stay strong, my fellow writers, artists, musicians, dancers... and lift each other up.  Now is the time to make sure that our stories are written and our voices stay strong.

We Must Keep Creating.

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