Armed With Artistry -- by Meral Alizada
The world has changed drastically in the past 20 years and even more so in the last five. Professions and job titles that didn't exist before are becoming lifestyles to aspire to. The white-collar professions have shown their limitations, and the freedom of entrepreneurship and enterprise has won over the younger generations.
We now dream of getting paid for what we love, and we aren't apologetic for wanting to. We leave jobs that don't make us happy. We've made mental health awareness and self-care fashionable and embraced body confidence and alternative lifestyles. We are more engaged with the world and want more from it.
The days of groundless job loyalty and self-inflicted boredom are passing us by, and the digital world, for all its well-argued dangers and downsides, has granted a kind of freedom and mobility, that even the cellphone free—"we had actual conversations"—generations cannot deny. The younger generations have critics aplenty, but they are the undeniable pioneers of leading us towards a world that respects artistry as much as the economy and society respect doctors and lawyers.
As much as this shift is happening, it has happened for some time, and it is accelerating in membership. But this has not come without pushback and a body of opinion rising to contest the value and longevity of pursuing the creative arts. They ask us: how do you make of a job title that LinkedIn certainly can't identify?
The world is seeing more and more tragedy, volatility, crisis, and inequalities. We are witnesses to the ever-deepening divide between the privileged and the poor. We are endlessly searching to save ourselves from the damage of the human hand on Mother Earth.
As humanitarian crises deepen and replicate themselves across the world, the collective mind becomes ever more confused and unsettled. We have run again and again to the ordinary survival tools to save the day and form the solution to our struggles and the emergencies we face today. But it is these very tools and the insistence on sticking to these tools which have brought us to this state of international despair. Therefore, it has never been timelier to openly and expressly embrace and celebrate artistry and its extraordinary importance and value to human life.
The pandemic saw the closure of businesses and understood the stark reality that traditional straight path routes aren't always the safe option. The news of countless redundancies of employed people highlighted the severe limitations of a traditional job in the face of uncertainty. A wonderful story emerged on TikTok of a young girl who had been laid off her job. As a result, she decided to pursue her creative hobby and has now established a flourishing business.
If the pandemic taught us anything, it is that the world can change and drastically so. Dependability cannot always be depended upon. Artists, painters, writers, filmmakers, craftspeople emerged from the quiet of the streets. They made of an intolerable situation, a beautiful time of discovery and self-exploration. But this was not limited to those who meet the typical definition of an artist. People began businesses, developed apps, and started blogs. As in many cases, depending on a company or an employer to help get through the pandemic wasn't a reliable option.
As lawyers worry about bots taking over their administrative roles and driverless cars and robot hands taking over manual jobs, there is a real fear of the future of sustaining professions that can survive the constant leaps in human technology. The creative professions have long been undermined as second class to traditional white-collar pursuits.
Despite the collective embrace of art thanks to social media, there is much to be debunked on the stereotypes and prejudices against the artistic profession. These assumptions stand in the way of the chance to explore creativity and deter born artists from pursuing the profession that best serves them.
Artistry is undermined as an uncertain profession that is bound to fail. The stakes of success are too high, and only the very few make it 'big.' We, as the human race, are conditioned for comfort and reliability, but creative pursuits are neither. But, the pandemic seemed to show us otherwise.
The advancements in technology are removing many jobs of standard and norm, and it is difficult to see how these stereotypes still hold logic. It is high time we realize that in our ever-changing world, we explore and give a chance for alternatives to the normal of making a living.
Another deterrent factor against creative pursuits is the association of artistry with privilege. Those who have the safety net to fall back onto can be artists. The rest of us have to work in offices and skyscrapers. If we have time, we can keep painting or writing as a hobby. This is a difficult reality to argue against, as artistry is a path, we pave ourselves. There is no promise of an immediate outcome, and it certainly takes time to gain recognition and grow a community of readership and interest.
But this is true for the aspiring banker who has just scored an internship at their dream bank. It will take them a few years to establish a reputable work ethic and prove themselves. The barrister has to spend five to 10 years to establish themselves in their profession. Many lawyers come to a place of stability 20 years into their profession. Artistry is no different. Yet, we don't always see the similarity. Perhaps we should invite ourselves to.
Another poignant stereotype against artistry is one we frequently see in diaspora communities. Artistry grows in the context of peace and state stability. For nations riddled by war and poverty, survival is sometimes the best its citizens can aspire to. When writing, the mind must have some clarity or space to write. It is usually in the freeing up of that space that the mind and heart open up for creativity to flow.
The dire reality of those in war can only truly be understood by those in that situation. In war, what is first taken is the peace of mind to explore. How can we expect those fighting to keep their heads above water to create work expressed from the heart?
Immigrants encourage their children to become doctors, lawyers, and engineers, so their children do not experience the instability and uncertainty they did. And that is hard to argue against. Doctors are in high demand and need. Wherever you go, a doctor will find work. However, it is no surprise that the most striking of art has arisen from the flames of trauma, pain, and struggle.
For real artists, art is the bread and butter that makes the day worthwhile. This is a beautiful insight into the world of artistry. If we see art as a necessity—a fundamental part of human functioning—we may reconsider the strength of the privilege argument. We tend to separate and hold artistry as an independent profession—connected and in a light of its own. When in fact, artistry forms a necessary and life-changing part of any profession. Embracing the perspective of the necessary and omnipresent nature of artistry is what moves us from working for a living to experiencing real satisfaction and fulfillment in our pursuits.
Take entrepreneurship, for example. When I began my path into creativity, I was astounded at the synergy between poetry as a profession and entrepreneurship. I realized how much I needed entrepreneurship to pursue writing. When I embraced entrepreneurship, I experienced the incredible lessons in artistry that it can teach me.
Writing poetry comes from the internal reservoir of the self. It can drain and limit mobility and cause emotional exhaustion if not handled with care and consideration. There are times where you feel like taking a step back when your focus is lost, and you find yourself producing artwork on-demand, and the fatigue begins to settle in.
But entrepreneurship and the need for consistency is what keeps the pedals of artistry going. It maintains a sense of direction and purpose. It keeps us close to the reality of what it means to monetize art and make a living from it.
Entrepreneurship is a constantly evolving, organic project inspired by the place of service rather than numbers. Service means extending oneself beyond the result itself and advocating and embodying a movement, a message, a philosophy. I had the pleasure of sharing a gentleman on a Clubhouse who was a software engineer who likened his work to art.
Listening to him, as a poet, I was moved. I read into the software development process and came to find how incredibly similar it was to any other work of art. Each piece of software is a journey of discovery, exploration, and experimentation.
In the heart is the consideration for the response of the human being to the workability of the software. The artist is fanatically obsessed with the audience—both the software engineer and the artist work for the recipient's benefit, service, and personal development. To put it simply—every act we undertake is an artwork. The best of those at their work are really those who are best at their craft.
When we truly embrace the omnipresence of art, we reap the endless seeds of its rewards, not only in our work life but also in our internal life. The transformative power of art has great gifts to give to the human psyche. I was at a traffic light in my hometown at around 7 pm. It was the end of the working day for those of us in the UK, and I looked around at the faces speaking a loud message—work and the blandness of that cycle, lacking the insertion of what makes the soul sing.
I was then taken back to my ancestral world, Central Asia and Eurasia. I remembered the evenings spent in poetry, amongst the community, playing music, and the constant laughter that accompanied it. Those nights seemed endless. Much of the cultural life revolved around the practice and performance of art. My heart deeply yearned to take some part of my culture and balance it with the strong work ethic in the West.
Creating art on a fundamental level causes the significant reduction of the stress hormone: cortisol. When we create art, we experience a state of being comparable to meditation. Artmaking quietens the mind and brings forth higher states of being inclined towards peace, abundance, and possibility. For those suffering from long-term illnesses, art creating can improve mental functioning and soften the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. But most intriguingly, from personal experience, art can transform trauma and struggle into meaning.
As the world becomes more volatile, it is about time we give artistry credit and value it is due.
--Meral Alizada, President, Eurasia & Middle East