Undervaluing creative work--why do we do it?

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A day off work: the perfect time to reflect and spend time in quiet. To reconnect with my spirit and refresh my soul. I had grand visions of taking a trip to the lake, an area where a Catholic church stands and where a beautiful garden invites visitors to rest and find silence. Or perhaps it would be a good day to tackle my fall cleaning list: finally clean up the herb garden, take down the scarecrows, and wash windows. Maybe I should be a complete slug and read for hours then break for a movie matinee.

None of these things feel right and I’m instantly panicked—that I will waste this day, these few precious hours that I have to do whatever I want. This happens so rarely that I feel pressure to choose exactly the right thing. Because tomorrow I will return to my paid work and to deadlines and bottom lines.

This too, is how it is for creatives much of the time. Too few artists and writers and musicians have the luxury of doing their work on a full-time basis. When they talk about it in awe-laced voices, their faces change. Smile lines around the eyes deepen and very often a sort of happy glow radiates from their faces. “Someday …” and “When I retire …” and “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to …” are common phrases.

Why have we set up our world so that bankers and accountants and software engineers and business owners are lauded and given the head nod of approval, while those of us who create are told to “do it in your free time”? Where has the respect for art and creativity gone? Why do we as a culture no longer embrace the creative gifts the same way as we did in the Renaissance Period?

Maybe my view is skewed. I did wake and find myself in a half-glass-empty sort of mood. Still, it irks me that creatives gifts are seen as “less than,” because our society views money-making endeavors as more important. But when did the dollar bill outshine the importance of creating? When did the banks become more important than the art galleries, and Wall Street more valued than creative expression?

When did we decide as a culture that working 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week in a cubicle or warehouse or office was more important than living a full life, one that includes creative expression and communication—not just as a “side hustle,” but as our life’s work?

Perhaps today with my precious eight hours of free time, I will flaunt my freedom and do something creative. Maybe I will write poetry just because I can, or pull out paints and start a new piece. Maybe I’ll sing just for the fun of it at 10:00 in the morning. 

Or maybe, I’ll just offer encouragement to other creatives who struggle to fit their real, meaningful work in around the edges of jobs that take up so much of our time. Words and thoughts to let them know that they are seen and valuable and that their work in this world doesn’t go unnoticed.

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