Social Impact and Meaningfulness in Creativity

Michael Loveday is a writer, editor, and coach for writers and artists. Below are edited extracts from his winter Loveday’s Letter, with kind permission from the author.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the social impact of what we do as artists and writers, and the meaningfulness of our efforts to create.

A Crisis of Meaning?

During the pandemic of the last year, I’ve heard many creative folk allude to having lost some of the meaning from their creative practice. What’s the point of writing stories or making art, when our very lives and circumstances are threatened on a daily basis as they have been?

Another issue that has stepped squarely into the foreground is the question of social justice. The devastating circumstances of the killing of George Floyd last year provoked millions around the world to demand radical social change.

Add to this mix the shocking attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th this year, and the ongoing torrent of articles about governments failing to respond adequately to the climate crisis, writers and artists could be forgiven for wondering whether their creativity really matters.

Ways to Have More Social Impact and Find More Meaning

One remedial response to all this (it’s not the only one, of course) is to re-engage with politics and social issues even more deliberately in our creative work.

Being aware of the specific social or political issues that swirl through and around your life can help you manifest these issues in your creative work (whether explicitly or indirectly), giving your artistic output even more impact.

An Invitation

Which of the following social issues have affected your life most directly? I’d like to invite you to spend a few minutes exploring in writing the ones that have risen up most powerfully in your life.

Religion
Race
Gender
Sexual Orientation
Class issues/class struggle
Political affiliations
Work/employment
Whether power and authority are used benevolently or with malign intent
How to raise/live in a family or relationship – how to treat your loved ones
Environmental issues
Education
Welfare
Healthcare
Crime
Charity
Disability
Age
Pregnancy/motherhood
Marriage/civil partnership
Any other social issues relating to equality, discrimination, justice, power and ideas of ‘right and wrong’

New Approaches to Our Creative Work

One form of meaningful creative contribution can be exactly this: to bear witness to the ways in which social issues have manifested in our lives. Not everyone’s lives are touched by politics in similar ways, it’s true. We work within the limits of what’s authentic to our identity, yet with the capacity of our imagination to connect us to what exists beyond ourselves. We can use our own unique perspective to join the conversation. Even a small act of creativity can have transformative power, be an act of resistance, or help to make the world a better place.

If, within the past year, you’ve been struggling to find your creative work as meaningful as before, here are some possibilities:

·         Consider how socio-political issues (like the ones above) have played out in your own life. Make some notes.

·         If you are an artist or poet, can you connect your personal experience to larger social forces, and weave this connection into your creative work?

·         Are there significant figures from history (or historical events) with which you feel an affinity or connection? Could you explore socio-political issues from a broader historical perspective (for example, with an appreciation of your own ancestry and cultural inheritance)?

·         If you are a fiction writer, could you set your characters against each other in oppositional ways with respect to social and political issues – either to produce outright story conflict or to enrich the story with subtler forms of contrast?

These are just a few ways in which we can experiment even more forcefully with social issues in our creative work.

More details here: https://michaelloveday.com

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