Stoking the Fires of Creativity in Times of Doom: Life in Empire
– Tananarive Due
Baby steps are hard. But they are deeply important to take.
A friend asked recently if I was feeling extra anxiety lately. My reply?
“I’m feeling more determined.”
That determination is what drives me to the gym. It drives me to study. It drives me to write. It drives me to pray. It drives me to speak out. It drives me to show up.
I have determined that building culture is important.
I am determined that these greedy, short sighted, violent, bigoted fools shall not win.
Right after the 2016 election results rolled in, many artists wrote about how to get through these times.
Well, we need to keep figuring that out, don’t we?
And the truth is? People always have.
People figured out how to create during the worst years of the AIDS crisis when queer artists, agitators, and friends were sacrificed on the altar of indifference and fear and a whole generation of queer mentors was decimated.
People figured out how to create when the CIA flooded US city streets with cocaine traded for arms to crush communities in Nicaragua.
People figured out how to create when the wealthy few worked their family members half to death.
People figured out how to create as their cities burned.
People figured out how to create when their communities were bombed.
Some people have always figured out how to create in brutally worse conditions than many of us can imagine.
To create in the face of such opposition is, in itself, a victory.
I don’t care if your work is “any good.”
I don’t care if your work feels “important.”
What I care is that everyone who wants to create right now finds a way to say “fuck you” to oppression, depression, despair, illness, poverty, death threats, harassment, betrayal, silence, oblivion, and anything else stacked up against them.
And I know that’s hard.
And I know I’m speaking from relative privilege right now.
And I know we can’t all feel determined every single day.
We need each other. We need one other person to tag team or relay with. We need one other person who cares.
And we need to listen to that person: whether we share the same physical space, or they are part of a network two continents away.
Please, I beg of you: take a breath right now. Drop your attention deep into your body. Exhale. Then dig deep and find whatever determination rests within you. Breathe into your determination. Increase its power.
Then, ask what will support that determination.
Is it listening to or making music?
Is it reading or writing?
Is it dancing?
Is it digging your fingers into soil?
Is it deep conversations with friends?
Is it laughter?
Is it making sure you eat?
Is it doing your laundry?
Is it going for a walk?
Is it letting yourself feel angry, sorrowful, alienated, or afraid?
Is it choosing to put time on your calendar to create?
Times of Doom always cycle. For millennia, they have risen and fallen like the tides. They are always felt more acutely by oppressed and marginalized people.
If oppressed people stopped creating, even in the face of death, we would all be lesser for it.We would be missing whole swathes of creative culture.
I don’t blame you for wanting to give up.
I just hope and pray you don’t.
We are in a time of Doom.
We are also in a time of Possibility.
Please. Find your will. Hold fast. Or let go.
Even one single match gives off light before it burns out. And that match has the power to light a lamp or start a fire.
Stoke the fires of your creativity. Light up your corner of the world.
In gratitude and honor – Thorn