There is no denying that the last year has been impossibly bleak. With non-stop headlines about pandemics and racial injustice, everyone’s focus has been on how to fix our world. As a creative, I tend to find myself doubting my contribution to these efforts. TEDxMileHigh: Rise speaker R. Alan Brooks put it best, “When the world is really truly burning, is art really that important?” His answer, “Hell yeah!” Brooks has a message to all creatives: don’t let fear stop you and your creativity. Join us as we unpack that message.
During our first-ever virtual event, Brooks gave a fiery talk on the importance of art. He explained that in times of unrest, art remained a spark that people in power sought to destroy. Brooks understands the feeling of unworthiness and irrelevance. He knows what it’s like to be told that being an artist can’t be a profession, that it’s not a “real career.”
But, despite the disbelief and doubt, Brooks turned his passion into his career. He finds meaning in his work every day, and he encourages every other creative to do the same.
Don’t Let Fear (Or Anything Else) Stop Your Creativity
The “Anything Else”
Brooks loved comic books from a young age and spent his childhood creating them with his friend. When his friend’s dad told them comic books and graphic art were not tools that would help them create a steady future, Brooks realized two things. One, his friend’s dad was wrong. Two, art was never a career option for his friend’s dad so how could he possibly know?
This scene might be familiar to some creatives. You know you have a gift. You know people enjoy the product of that gift, so why not make it your life’s work? Maybe because someone is telling you it’s not a good option (i.e. you’ll never make it doing whatever it is you want to do).
In the age of Instagram influencers and online personalities, this message might resonate most with Millenials who have been told their career goals are invalid. TEDxMileHigh: Wonder speaker Danielle Shoots is all too familiar with these millennial stereotypes and debunks them in her talk.
“An Intelligence Group study found that 64 percent of millennials would choose $40,000 a year to do a job they loved over making $100,000 a year at a job they found boring,” says Shoots. As creatives, and some of us millennial creatives, we are aware that most of what we create is not going to be extremely financially fruitful.
However, Brooks encourages you to not let that stop you. Just because the generation before might value a strong savings account over passion, doesn’t mean that tradition needs to carry on.
And, to all of the Boomer parents out there freaking out about their child majoring in art rather than medicine, Brooks has the success story to ease your panic. After quitting his job selling insurance, Brooks began working on his graphic novel, “The Burning Metronome.” He is now a published author and professor at Regis University helping other creatives discover their passions. What he was told would never amount to any kind of career has turned into a way for Brooks to inspire others and make a living doing what he loves.
You’re a creative who has finally developed their craft into a career and now it’s time to put your work out in the world. Your palms are sweating and you are doubting every skill you ever considered yourself to have. “Am I ready for people to see my creation?” “Is it the right time to release my work?” “Will people even care?”
Brooks will tell you, it does not matter. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t let fear stop you.
In his talk, Brooks asks, “If art is so silly, then why was Hitler so afraid of it?”
The Nazi party was notorious for looting and destroying works of art during their time in power.
In 1937, 15,550 works of art were taken from German museums and put on display in what was known as the Entarte Kunst, or the Degenerate Art Exhibition. The entire show was meant to display this art in a way that mocked the artist and the inspiration behind the pieces. Many of the works were burned after the show. Why? Because these pieces challenged the idyllic worldview Hitler sought to create.
These pieces were different and therefore dangerous. This, Brooks argues, is the reason you shouldn’t let fear stop you. Art, in any form, can challenge those in power and counter certain norms that suppress different cultures.
You don’t know who will see your creation. You don’t know what they will think, how they will react, or what kind of fire you could ignite with your art. All you know for sure is you definitely won’t get any of those answers by keeping your art to yourself. If you have a gift that is worth dedicating your career to, why keep that from the world?