One of the most important things in my life right now is to establish who I am, what I am. This sounds like a self-centred exercise, but it’s not. It’s a letting go of my own ideas and instead emptying, waiting to sense the way I am connected to the rest of the world, the place I have, the role I play.
A thought which came to the fore is that of the role of the artist. While my experience has been, of course, that of story teller, I’ve been intrigued in recent years to become intimate friends with a musician and a visual artist, because I found we were carbon copies of each other in many ways. I’ve seen this again recently, in a new musician friend. It led me to the conclusion that there is a group of humans who are endowed with creativity, who play a specific role in humanity’s overall wellbeing. Oh, there are myriad other groups, and each has a place in the delicate ecosystem that is ‘people’. Because I am a part of the creative group, I am obviously focusing on how our minds work, where we fit in. Unlike those gifted with mathematics-related skills, our worth is also more questioned than those who can produce products or services with a quantifiable value. My first good experience was concluding that if humanity didn’t need creative people – artists, all of them, though because ‘artist’ has become so associated with specifically visual arts I’ll refer instead to ‘creative person’ – we would not have evolved creative talent.
What are some of the commonalities I saw in us? I’ll spare you some of the sadder details, because this group is not always blessed. We tend to be insecure, and tortured with overthinking. But I can sum it all up by saying that we feel more intensely than people in other groups. This not only extends to daily emotions, but to empathy. We’re more likely to have natural but painful insight into others’ experiences and feelings. We’re more likely to avoid the news as we get depressed, unable to disconnect and be objective about it. I’m not saying these qualities are universal, I’m saying they’re more common in this group.
Through a long thought process, I came to the conclusion that we are interpreters. Humanity needs to have emphathy with the whole world in order to survive. It needs to remember its past, and imagine its future. When your ability is focused on, say, organisational skills and people management (what a terrible way to put this! I have a specific friend in mind who is downright gifted with this, but my description doesn’t do justice to the value of his abilities), your brain is focused on that. It would be silly to divert resources from that specific kind of talent in order to develop the talent of empathy. So instead, humanity acts as one organism, and delegates different specialities to different brains.
We as artists interpret the world for others through our highly developed empathy. We look at what’s around us and experience it intensely, and distill that intensity into a poem, a story, a painting, a sculpture, a piece of music which captures that precise emotion and delivers it to other groups ‘ready made’. The same way Micky sat beside me this morning, and with his mathematical mind, interpreted and streamlined my budget for me to ease my panic and sense of not being in control of it.
But what practical service does the creative group deliver? Have we not become redundant? No. Without the creative group feeling so intensely and delivering an interpretation of the world to the rest of the groups, the world would, for instance, be exploited without any checks or balances. But partly because the creative group spoke to the world with an imagination of what will be if that happens, the machine of industry is combated where needed to stop this beneficial factor from destroying us.
I’ve read a book about autism that described it in great detail, but nothing really delivered the message of what autism is like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. A story. Crafted by a story-teller, a member of the creative group. You can learn of the holocaust in history books and be shocked, but paitings and films speak directly to your heart of the true horror, the unspeakable things people were put through and what it did to them.
When I knew my life would change dramatically, I panicked. I floundered around for something “useful” I could do to support myself, the children. Being a writer was a luxury I could no longer afford, and in any case, the emotional turmoil had dried up my story well, though I still managed to tell the story of real life. But calm has returned. It has been important for me to go through this thought process and understand that regardless of the monetary value put on each of my stories, regardless of how many books I do or don’t sell, being a writer is what I am meant to be. For now, as far as ‘occupation’ is concerned, I know I’m meant to be just that. Nothing else.
So be it.