Socialism

Graffiti in Canberra
“Poetry must be made by all, not by one.” | Canberra

Layperson’s refuge;
and learned’s weapon of choice,
poetry is life.

Creativity needs freedom

My friend is in his late twenties, works for a multi-national company, and earns a standard five-figure salary—a more than adequate income considering he was single and lived in a share house with five others. 

His day begins as usual: brush, wash, shower, and bus to work. He clocks in at 8 for his 9 o’clock shift and get an overtime bonus. He skips coffee breaks, brings canteen lunch to his desk, and keeps a bottle of water beside him at all times. He has no reason to engage in office chatter, which has made him more efficient than others and mechanical in completing work on time.

“Get a life!” People tell him.

He spends Saturdays in office, sometimes for the overtime bonus and sometimes for the cheap canteen food. He sleeps in on Sundays, saving breakfast expense and surviving on a big brunch.

He’s the office nut case. No one knows what he likes to do for fun or how he spends his money. He doesn’t read, he doesn’t sing, he doesn’t listen to music. Doesn’t paint, doesn’t write, doesn’t…live. According to the world, he had no creative nerve in him. He was a good-for-nothing corporate mushroom who churned out labour in exchange for payment he locked away.

No one knew—

that he was paying off his family’s debt.

He had no time for art and music and poetry. He was too engrossed in getting through each day, subsisting, so that he could sustain long enough to become free.

We don’t always realise it, but creativity is strenuous. It’s hard work and it demands your full attention. To create, you need a clear mind, a soul that’s not crushed by the weight of poverty and responsibility. That’s why every struggling creative needs someone or something to support them so that they can shed their worries, even momentarily, and create. Those who have that assurance—through family, friends, or a support group—end up making magic. But those who don’t, like my friend, may never unleash their creativity.

Goes both ways

I often talk about what it means for me to write. To be able to translate the wrangling mess of confusion bubbling on the surface of my mind, to put it down on paper or screen, bare. To rid myself of that pressure, so intense that it sears my being every time I postpone writing. It’s a privilege to have the freedom and capacity to sit down and ball up all that thoughts into a form that could hit people, make them pause, muse, smile, relate, and even change their minds.

In a way, creating art is such a selfish act. I write because I want to spew out ideas galloping in my head. I expose part of myself when I write, and I do so willingly, deliberately, consciously choosing and trying to achieve the emotion I wish to impart.

In other words, artists often create art to satisfy themselves and their egos.

What of the consumer, though?

Graffiti in Melbourne

Browsing through photographs from Melbourne, I came across one of a graffiti. It was at one of the many infamous graffiti alleyways of the city. And on it was a piece of advice you’d least expect to receive from an overcrowded wall. Free your mind, it said. As if it knew that despite wandering around town ecstatic at the experience of exploring a new city, I was processing angst and fear. Although I was in the moment, taking in the beauty that sprawled around me, inhaling the chemical scent of rebellion splashed across the walls, I still had other things in mind. Some of those were important things but most menial—like where I’d go next or what I’d get for dinner afterwards. And as if it knew the meaningless banter cantering through my head.

It wasn’t new. I’d heard the same words many times in various places. And yet, that work of art spoke to me. Waking me, throwing me off of everything I could’ve hoped for.

That’s what art does to the consumer.

Art, when delivered at the right time to the right person, becomes a conversational medium. The creator doesn’t need to intend to self-satisfy, but instead to share, inform, and educate.

That’s when art transcends personal involvement, transitioning into a commitment to convey something to society. From being what the artist feels, it becomes what they want you to feel.