“What you do isn’t really work.”
This is what a friend said to me the other day. While I shrugged it off at the time, I have to admit it was actually pretty hurtful.
I doubt he meant it that way.
You see, I write fiction for a living. I make up stories, shape them into novels, and sell them. And people enjoy reading them.
That’s where I think my friend’s confusion comes in. He reads books, I write books. He enjoys reading books, so to him, books are fun. They aren’t work. Somehow he’s managed to translate that as books are fun to write, as well as read.
Which is true, in a sense. I love my job. But just because I enjoy it, doesn’t mean it isn’t work.
My first novel took five years to write, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life. And I was in the army, so I know hard. Okay, so I was in the Army Reserves for six months and quit because I didn’t want to polish my shoes any more, but still. It was hard.
Writing my first book was harder.
The point I’m trying to make here is that the creative arts are important, and people who create the books, movies, television shows, podcasts, and other art that everyone else enjoys, work bloody hard at it.
It’s a crazy time out in the world right now. I live in Australia, and so far in 2020 we’ve had devastating fires, floods, and now a world-wide pandemic. And it’s only March.
The people working on the front lines of all these events are amazing. Firefighters and other emergency services workers, doctors, nurses, people who care for the elderly and vulnerable, scientists, and even politicians, all are doing their best to ensure we get through these difficult times. Their jobs are hard.
But we also need artists. Collectively we’re going through one of the toughest tests of our lives right now. It’s understandable we will experience periods of uncertainty and anxiety. It happened to me the other day. I watched and listened to the news a bit too much, and I felt completely overwhelmed.
So what did I do? I switched off the news and watched the first three episodes of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. And I felt better.
That’s what creative artists do for us. They might not save lives in hospitals or on the front line, but I believe they do save lives. They give people an escape for a few hours. They make us laugh, they make us feel. They give us hope.
That’s what Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist did for me the other day. It made me laugh. It made me put aside the concerns and fears I had for the world and just not think about it all for a while. It was exactly what I needed.
I can’t imagine a world without entertainment. I don’t want to imagine a world without entertainment.
In the weeks and months to come, as we all work together to defeat this virus by staying apart, the work of creative artists is going to be more important than ever.
If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or isolated, if things are starting to get on top of you and you need to escape, turn off the news and read a book. Watch a movie, or binge a television show. Lose yourself in a podcast. Use the work of creative artists to restore your faith and bring back the happy.
And don’t tell me what I do isn’t really work.