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Creating power

To say that there's a lot going on in the world at the moment would be an understatement. There seems to be so much destruction, cruelty and straight up wrongness going on with humanity - and yet for many of us in our middle class suburban bubbles, our everyday lives are untouched. We can feel powerless to do anything. We can also start to feel that creativity is a privilege (it is) and a folly (it is not), a trivial waste of time when others are watching children die.

What I think though, is that creativity is a special kind of power. When you create, you make something from nothing. From an idea in your head, though your hands or your mouth or your body, something that didn’t exist before is born. It could be a song, a dance, origami or a doodle on the message pad while you’re on hold to your internet provider, but you made something that wasn’t there before - all through the gentle force of your own will, and in dialogue with the world around you.

You’ve made decisions and affected your environment. And with regular practice, the process of making something from nothing gives you this goddam powerful feeling that YOU CAN DO STUFF. This is agency.

But agency is not only the power to do things in the world - it is the feeling, the belief - that you actually have that power - as Charlotte Burgess-Auburn describes it in her book ‘You Need a Manifesto’ -

...that internal permission to pursue and achieve. It carries the meaning of both “can” and “may”.’

And the things that we can create are not only the physical artefacts of creativity - we can also create psychic spaces - spaces of calm, of peace, of safety, of resistance, of conversation and community, of the opposite of destruction, for both ourselves and others. We don't need any special resources for this act of creation, just the willingness to believe that we have agency and imagine a different future.

I know it might not feel like you are directly helping dying children. But in my world, in my experience - my creative practice has in no small part contributed to a belief in my own agency. And so I recommend it to you - I reckon the more of us out there who feel like they can change the world, the better.

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