This was written for the online course Elizabeth Gilbert’s Creativity Workshop.
What would I do for a living if I was not afraid of anything?
Well, the things I am afraid of right now are internal and external. I am afraid I am not good enough for a creative career, afraid that it will destroy what I love about writing or singing if I had to depend on them to make a living. I wouldn’t be able to just write or sing the things I want.
I am afraid of capitalism. I am afraid of what it does to my soul – and my time.
I am afraid that I only get maybe one more chance to retrain and make a decent living from something. I am afraid of not having a middle-class lifestyle, of not being able to take my children back to my home country regularly to see their family, of not being able to be present or help my family out financially when my parents are older and need care. I am afraid of not being able to take time off work, or not being able to walk out of a job I hate because I have no safety net. I am afraid of not being mobile, not being able to relax. I am afraid I could retrain as a bibliotherapist or a librarian or a yoga teacher and still be tired all the time, still be ill, and I’d be even poorer and lower-paid than if I’d just stuck with my current work and tried to manage the time I spend at a desk better.
If I was no longer afraid of these things, it would be because we had had some kind of profound social and economic transformation that revolutionised our relationship to time – to paid labour and emotional labour and creative labour. For the purposes of this exercise, I do not accept that I have somehow become incredibly wealthy and am personally freed from worrying about my financial security, but everyone has the opportunity now to spend time doing a mixture of the work that they love and the necessary work for the upkeep of the community they live in. I would wake up in the morning, write my morning pages and practise yoga and meditation. Then I would have breakfast with my partner and afterwards we would spend some time working on creative projects – I would write, he would do the things he is passionate about. We would do this for a few hours in the morning, then go and have lunch with some friends, or they would come to us. If it was a nice day, we might go for a walk and then after lunch would be ‘community time’. We would work in the community garden, or build something, or clean the streets or whatever we were assigned to. In the evenings, there would be events sometimes – talks or concerts, rehearsals or shows. Other times, we would be at home, chilling out, relaxing, visiting with friends.
I would write and I would lead reading and discussion groups. I would sing, alone and in choirs. I would not have been battered by an education system that – even though I thrived in it – left me with little internal motivation for things, no internal locus of control. Nor by an economic system that devalues the arts and humanities, devalues relationships and the work of caring, devalues wordcraft unless it is to sell something. I can be so much more than this. We can be so much more than this.