Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Imagine a World Without Books, Music or Dance
The legendary Prince, who died last week, was reportedly worth a cool $300 million, which few people, if any, can achieve in an average 8-5 job.

Blessing Musariri
April 26, 2016
Zimbabwe Herald

I am often asked what made me decide to become a writer. I give a variety of answers, but the actual answer is that I didn’t decide to become a writer, I was always a writer.

The decision I made was to make it my career. Any artiste will tell you that this is not an easy decision to make because art is a labor of love.

You go into it because of a compulsion, a need to express yourself in that particular way, but everyone knows that love alone doesn’t pay the rent. People will tell you, do it in your spare time, do it as a sideline, get a job until you can make a proper living from your art and then you can do it full-time.

They are not wrong. This is practical advice, but it just doesn’t really work. If you are fortunate enough to find yourself a job within the arts industry, something that allows you to be creative in your eight to five occupation and still leaves you inspired enough to go home and work on your own art after, then this is a blessing. A rare one.

Routine tasks unrelated to the pursuit of one’s art are anathema to the creative. It dulls something in the spirit. Creativity requires variety and constant stimulation because within the unexpected lies the spark we are all seeking. That spark that is the birth of an idea, a concept, a direction and from that moment on, time becomes as necessary as air.

If your time is taken up inputing data into a computer or sitting in endless meetings discussing things that are of no real interest to you except for the pay cheque at the end of it, you cannot nurture that spark and it will eventually die, taking a part of you along with it. It sounds rather melodramatic I know, but I am not exaggerating. Those sparks, those ideas that are gifted to you —and they are a gift in all truth — build you, they develop who you are at your core and guide you on the path to your life’s purpose.

It is my most firmly held belief that everyone is born with a talent, something at which they are intrinsically good, something that comes naturally to them. These talents are not always obvious or what we might identify within our societies as talents, but they are there all the same. People are able to charm everyone into liking them and thus into following their lead and/or doing their bidding, others work well with children or animals.

Some people can make gardens flourish, others create homes that are havens and some have the ability to inspire others through sharing their knowledge. Some people are simply brave, and that is their talent. Everyone has something that makes them special, that makes them different from the next person, something which if developed in a positive way makes the world a better place. Not everyone is fortunate enough to discover what this may be, within their lifetime and not everyone uses their talent for good.

But, let us return to the spark. Once the spark is caught, it requires incubation. When I am a literary legend and people who lived with me are being interviewed for the biopic, they will most likely be asked about my creative processes, and they will most likely say, “Well, we’re not sure exactly when she wrote all the things she did because even though she spent a lot of time alone in her room, often when you would go to see what she was doing, you would find her reading, dancing to loud music, taking a nap or watching the same shows over and over again.”

They would not be lying. Even I sometimes wonder when I’m done, when I actually sat down and worked. What people cannot see, and will never know, is that all the work is taking place in my head, in a place that is not even truly accessible to me, the creator — you can be let in and shut out at a moment’s notice.

What is required of me during this incubation period, is that I provide the time and space for the ideas to grow. When people ask me how I create a story, I tell them, “Well, when I get a spark, I write it down, to keep it tethered, then I let it wander around my head at will, meeting the other sparks that came before and are now resident. I let them associate freely and gather while I observe and record, and when they have reached critical mass, I begin to put them in order.”

What will be found to be plentiful in the effects of my estate long after I am gone are piles and piles of notebooks and bits of paper stuck and stapled into notebooks and entire scenes and dialogues in random notes on tabs and note-saving apps. The hard work starts when I now have to sit down and put it all together and it is often a surprise to find myself done.

Other artistes’ processes will most likely differ, but the bottom line is that creativity requires stimulation, time, space and diligence. It is not easy and given a choice I might have chosen to be a banker and have a talent for spotting financial trends and hitting pay loads.

It may be romantic and idealistic to be the proverbial “starving artiste”, suffering to bring beauty to the world, but I like my creature comforts and so I approach my talent as a creative enterprise, with enterprise being the operative word, that is, a business.

Unfortunately, and especially on our side of the world, many people see artistes as labourers of love, who should give their love for free. They offer to pay us in, “exposure” — giving you a platform from which to advertise your wares.

Nobody can eat exposure, we cannot pay our bills with it, we cannot buy time from daily pressures with exposure. Otherwise, what they are prepared to pay is not worth the time and effort it took you be creative. Because I am a writer, when I talk about the arts, I am talking about them largely from my viewpoint, but generally, as artistes, we all tend to experience the same prejudice. We are not taken seriously. Verbally, maybe we get some kind of respect but when it comes to compensation that is when you realise that talk is cheap.

Art is integral to our society. It builds, inspires, it teaches and represents us. It creates for us, cultural legacies. We learn about civilisations before us through the art they left behind to represent them, and this is not simply through music and song, dance and literature, but through crafts and buildings and practical inventions. Even science cannot deny that art is a close relative.

There is artistry even in simple movement. Artistes should therefore be commended for their bravery, if nothing else, for the courage they have shown by identifying their talent and choosing to give it a life in a world where practicality pays the bills. Artistes should be compensated and supported by policies that ensure their right to earn a decent living and the chance to equally access available opportunities.

Some artistes feel that they must rebel against societal norms in order to truly embrace their creative form, free from all strictures. This may or may not a conscious choice, and sometimes, this makes the rest of society uncomfortable and causes them to view artistes as a kind of lesser being.

This, however, does not stop them from consuming the art that is produced. What would this world be without music, without songs, without books to read? There would be no beautifully constructed homes and buildings to admire, no canvases to grace our walls, no dances to learn, no crafts with which to adorn our rooms and our bodies.

Who would sculpt the monuments to our heroes and record their gallant feats? Who would take portraits of our leaders and immortalise us, framed and unframed? Who would work while all the rest are sleeping simply because there is something beautiful that has grown within them, that they wish to share?

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