for the Creatives

The obligation of an artist

I’ve been pondering the role of an artist, what our responsibility is and what can depend on our brand. What qualifies as our role and what is “out of our lane”. I don’t have that all figured out, and it may be more subjective than all this, but here’s where I’m at right now:


“Shut up and sing,” they say. “Stay in your lane. Leave politics to the politicians. Your education, your skillset is merely the creation of an aesthetic piece.”

But you know. You know your education is more than the word on the page, the brush on the canvas, the graceful movement or theatrical quip, more than the combination of melody and harmony.

Your skillset is in the human condition, the myriad of stories and moments and emotions and experiences and struggles that make a life. It bleeds into your art, your life, your politics, your values. There is no separation. And as an expert on the human condition, your voice matters.

  • We have an obligation to speak from where we’ve come, where we are, where we’re going.
  • We have an obligation to listen.
  • We have an obligation to represent the diversity and the variety of the world around us.
  • We have an obligation to amplify marginalized voices.
  • We have an obligation to speak for justice, for life, for humanity. To speak for the vulnerable and overlooked. To represent without exploiting their story for our own gain.
  • We have an obligation to challenge. To guide, to push, to disturb the status quo.
  • We have an obligation to truth, in both fiction and nonfiction.

I’m still learning. I’m still learning what this looks like for artists in general and for me specifically. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is the role of an artist? Where do they fit in society beyond entertainment?

Mental Health

For the ones who cry too much, even if that’s only me

Let me tell you a story.

Credit: It’s a short story within “The Nobodies Album.” That book itself is a novel, with a small collection of short stories throughout that build on the theme of the actual novel. And I’m going to completely go all spoiler on one of the short stories, but there is no spoiler for the novel as a whole. This short story alone is really a great look at humanity, and worth the entire cost of the book I promise.

It’s called “The Human Slice”, about a world where everyone forgets all the unhappy memories. No one knows why. But the rare few who remember, those people are called The Heavies, because they’re such downers! Why would anyone want to bring up the unhappy past?

One family had a trauma just before the memories were taken – a toddler dying. But the family forgets, and only the grandma remembers, the only Heavy. The grandma reminds them of their past, and they all have various feelings of hearing it – some wanting to live in blissful ignorance, some wanting to know like really know their own past as their own. As this short story progresses, we find out a lone granddaughter remembers too, and is simply pretending to be like everybody else. Happy. Blissful. Forgetful.

When they visit the scene of the accident, the grandma finds the girl in tears. It’s almost like a reuniting for them. They are once again together to suffer their grief, no longer in it alone. It’s hopeful. They can finally chat about the memories together, work through it together. And then, the ending. The granddaughter wakes up to breakfast and asks grandma – “Will you take me to put flowers on Jonah’s grave?” and grandma says, “Who’s Jonah?”

Boom! What an ending! She forgot, ya’ll! I rarely have the urge to throw a book across the room, but I was so close with that. SO GOOD! and so terrifying. The granddaughter finally admits her secret and has a companion to grieve with, and the memories are taken from yet another! Which leads us to think “poor granddaughter” of course, but also what is going on in the world and will it not stop until no sad memory is left?


 

So why am I telling you this tragically beautiful story? Because sometimes I forget that pain isn’t the end. That sorrow being taken away isn’t the answer.

The story brings up so many quandaries, of people no longer knowing what dangers they have encountered. Kids punch other kids and say “It’s okay, they won’t remember it later.” Students don’t remember the sad parts of history to take the test, but obviously repercussions go further than that. An abused wife would never remember to hide from her husband and call 911. A teenager would consider getting back together with the boyfriend who cheated on her.

Sometimes sorrow is a protector.

But also, sometimes sorrow is proof you’re living, proof you’re human.

The mother in the above story kept asking to be retold the story of her toddler, because she couldn’t remember her own son. Every morning she’d awake having forgotten again. She’d forgotten something so much a part of her. She couldn’t move on, because she didn’t have a memory to return to.


 

I’m an introspective, intuitive, analytical, and emotional person. I cry too easily, I hurt too easily. And sometimes I just want a break.

I once apologized to my boyfriend – “Sorry. Most people wouldn’t cry over something so little.” I don’t remember what it was I was crying about then, but I’m sure it was true. I’ve cried over him having only refrigerated butter instead of room temperature, so case in point.

You know what he said? “Maybe other people should. Maybe you’re supposed to feel this much and you’ve got it right.”

I don’t necessarily agree with him – I remember quite distinctly thinking “No, absolutely no one should cry because [insert ridiculous reason here.]” But he was thoughtful, and he did have a point.

That it’s okay to feel, even alot. And I shouldn’t wish it away for the world, because it’s a part of living.