Whether you can, can’t, don’t want to, or won’t turn your creativity into a business...just keep creating.

Life was simpler when reduced to a collection of vices and the paycheck that fueled their financial stability. While sinking into that duality, depression and anxiety were natural reactions to my limited literacy of emotional regulation. I had access to, and used talk therapy most of those years. I didn’t seek a diagnosis, nor prescription medication — but hardly discourage anyone from doing so. I know plenty that owe sustained recovery to both.

Reading became a bigger part of my life. I started writing as a reaction to reading. But as soon as I began painting, planting, sketching, cooking etc. etc. late last year, I finally felt...what I knew to be instinctually true — that creativity, alongside connection and community, are key building blocks to our emotional wellness and essential to preventing mental health disorders from taking over our lives.

Any creative endeavor will generally do, but at the time, writing was something I genuinely wanted to get “better” at and thought it might be the only creative medium I would enjoy. But who the fuck knew when I’d become a “good” writer? So I used it to work out opinions about myself in a way talk therapy couldn’t, or wasn’t meant to. It created signposts for my identity that I used as outlets for those micro-successes/failures that seem so essential when trying to embrace an internal dialogue that constantly asks when your depression or anxiety will be “over.” 

We know it’s a complicated lifelong relationship with both sets of emotions, and if writing remained a pressureless reaction of creative energy, I would’ve stopped there. But as the financial realities of my situation became more apparent, I felt I couldn’t write without the pressure to turn it into something I could eat off of. If I couldn’t make that happen, I couldn’t spend time writing. I stopped writing.

I think our generation, myself included, is continually feeling less ownership over fewer parts of our lives. Since 2010, less new businesses have been forming, less homes owned, more data lost or stolen by digital providers, more ads targeted to you after that conversation last week about cruises to Reykjavík. Less ownership over a woman’s right to choose in a growing number of US states. Less opportunity for class mobility. More opportunists feeding off racism, sexism and xenophobia.

Painting, planting, sketching, cooking etc. etc. allow me a feeling I don’t get from something like writing, or working. When I write I want it to be “good” at it. When I work, I have to make money doing it. But when I do things like nurse Creeping Fig up my fucking pergola, I’m just happy it’s in this world for the sake of it being in this world. My present is its presence, and that kind of physically creative energy is something that thrives on our anxiousness to get up and get going...and the only way I fight my depression is sinking into that feeling.

Whether you can, can’t, don’t want to, or won’t turn your creativity into a business...just keep creating. If COVID is teaching us anything, it’s that we’ll have to take care of our own financial freedom — it won’t be handed to us by the government and won’t be guaranteed by our large employers.  

Mike Esposito
JCK Foundation

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