I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what precisely I, as an artist, can do to counter the sociopolitical climate of this moment. I am unwilling to fall victim to despair, while at the same time I recognize a sense of helplessness – particularly when it comes to sharing the truth. Our leaders have become misleaders. Our social media have become less social, more media. And the press is now suspect both to those who wish to subvert the facts and those who are seeking them out.
Therefore, I feel that it falls to artists to follow through, more so now than ever, on their job description of holding a mirror up to society. We must tell the truth.
Here are a few thoughts about how we, as artists, can use our craft, our talents, and our art to more fruitfully fulfill our calling moving forward.
Ask More Questions. Questions are the seeds of truth. The more questions you ask, the more of the truth you get. Illegitimate people fear questions. They are an artist’s most powerful tool.
Use your hands. The computer keyboard is fast thinking. Writing something by hand is slow thinking. Practice gratitude and true connection by writing someone a note today.
Research, Research, Research. Wikipedia is not the answer. Research your ideas and your positions thoroughly. Dig deeper. Where possible always, ALWAYS go directly to the source.
Embrace conflict as a tool for progress. Any dramatists knows that stories only move forward through conflict. We must internalize the fact that conflict can be a tool. Difficult conversations are like a divining rod for pain, suffering, and ultimately common ground.
Subtext is not just a thing in plays. Nobody says what’s really going on. There’s always something happening underneath. Learn to listen to what people aren’t saying. Connect with them on that.
Show us, don’t tell us. Literary artists in particular love their words. But any artist worth their stuff knows that actions matter most. Not what does the character say, but what does the character do? Similarly, writing tweets and sharing posts on social media is fine and fun. Having good ideas is great. But now use them to go and take meaningful action. Be the example we need right now.
Cross the divide. Inhabiting characters that have different mindsets, different points of view, and different backgrounds from you can be hugely educational – for you and for your audience. Being able to identify with people vastly different from yourself promotes empathy and results in a decline of cruelty.
Tell the truth. Don’t be prescriptive. Don’t give us your commentary. Just give us the truth – cold, hard, and difficult to swallow. It’s the medicine we need right now.
Walk around naked. The most valuable gift you have to offer is yourself. Be as weird, as vulnerable, and as daring as you can. And then let everyone see it.
And finally, Make Good Art: