Your Art is Essential. (Or, On Being Creative In Times Like These.)

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.” ~Osho

One of my favorite things on in the internet right now is Brain Pickings — the magical creation of a super inspiring woman, Maria Popova, that serves as a daily celebration of creativity and contribution, and our capacity to cultivate more meaningful lives through collaboration and cross-pollination and the intentional expansion of our imaginative efforts.

Popova basically reads everything ever written and then distills it down into these amazingly insightful snippets of wisdom that regularly inspire me in unexpected and profound ways.

I’m pretty sure this woman never sleeps because her creative output is crazy prolific. And I admit it:  Her site totally gives me idea envy.

I also kind of want her to be my best friend so that we can stay up all night gossiping about literature and life and how to be better people. And so that she can tell me in more detail how she manages to consistently put out such quality work as a one-woman operation in creative badassery.

I’m jealous. And impressed. And wondering how in the hell she makes it happen.

But I’m also super thankful for her efforts, because on the days I find myself questioning the validity of my own creative work and mostly convinced my efforts are futile, I can always count on her words to remind me I’m wrong.

Most recently, I stumbled across a short article she posted about the brilliant author, Toni Morrison, reflecting on the importance of creative work in times of dread and lost hope, and how when the world feels broken, art becomes even more essential.

Popova references an essay Toni Morrison wrote following the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004. This essay appeared in The Nation — a publication I rarely (if ever) read) — and is one I likely would never have stumbled across on my own.

Which is why I love Brain Pickings so much.

Because this essay by Morrison is so incredibly timely given our current political reality and the despair and dread by which it is accompanied. And Popova is finding gems like this everywhere all the time, and constantly blowing my mind — and probably millions of other minds — in the process.

In the weeks since the election, I have been feeling decidedly disengaged from my own creative efforts, trying to figure out how to make them matter again now that the world around me feels so goddamn depressing.

This quote — taken from the Brain Pickings post about Morrison’s essay — was especially poignant for me in my current state:

“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.”

I’m still trying to figure out what to do next. But these words really did open my eyes to the importance of art and creativity and imagination during less-than-ideal times.

And if someone else’s words can profoundly affect me and inspire me to act and create and stay hopeful in the face of dread, disappointment, and fear, perhaps my own words will someday do the same for another.

And that, you guys, is why art is essential.

So, keep creating. Keep making your art. Even while there are some legitimately horrifying and unsettling things happening around us, your art still matters.

In fact, it probably matters more.

And if you need some inspiration, visit Brain Pickings and poke around a little bit. I promise you won’t be disappointed.