Have you gone to bed wishing the world was a better place, if not for you than for your loved ones? Maybe someone cut you off when you’re already late, maybe you saw a stressed mom yelling at her kids in the grocery store. You wished you could do something, anything, to make life a little better, a little easier. Well, you can change the world, and you don’t have to give up your life and live in Calcutta to do it. All you have to do is…create.
Here are five ways you can change the world without leaving your hometown:
Change the World # 1: You have to change your own world first
Creatives are especially prone to burnout since we often see those people mainstream society does not. We’re used to looking at things no one else likes to look at. It’s what makes us such influential citizens in our society, whether wealth and fame follow that influence or not.
I am convinced the one best thing creatives contribute to society is our ability to imagine ourselves in other walks of life. It is only when we can move our imaginations into someone else’s point of view (whether that’s through a poem, a novel, a painting, a song, or a flash fiction piece) that any lasting change can take place.
But before you do that—stand in your own shoes first. You can’t help someone else get warm if you’ve got holes in your own Cariuma sneakers.
Change the World # 2: Understand the power of micro-social interactions
I don’t know much, but I do know there are things only you can do. There are people only you, with your unique life experience, will even see, let alone write or paint or sing about.
I saw a young mother in the parking garage of a children’s hospital recently. She held a crying baby in her arms, and she looked barely out of childhood herself. My heart went out to her. I know how hard it is to take care of young babies. The lack of sleep. The constant feeling of never quite getting enough to eat, the myth of a full night’s sleep far behind you.
I know loads of people who wouldn’t even have noticed her standing there in the corner, and if they did, wouldn’t have thought much about it.
But I knew.
And when I caught her eye and smiled, nodded, she knew I saw her too.
Did I change her life? No. But it would surprise you how helpful those small acknowledgments can be when someone is feeling alone.
Why do I do this? Because of an article that I read about talking to strangers. It boils down to empathy: taking an interest in other human beings, regardless of who they are, makes us all feel better. All that leads to number three….no interaction is too small.
Change the World #3: Reaching out through your creativity. (Hint: small is best!)
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Some people think that because they are not rich or powerful, they cannot change the world. This is false.
Do you know what doesn’t cost any money and barely any time? A quick email to check in on a friend we haven’t seen in a while. Just because emails aren’t Tolstoy doesn’t mean your writing can’t change the world.
It is we the people, without extra time and money to give to noble causes, who change the world by performing minor acts of kindnesses. Holding space for others to create, writing an email, a lunch note to our kids, a thank you note to an author who inspired us.
It is we the creatives who can imagine a world different, better, or at least kinder than the one we live in now. You need imagination for that. You need connection with that inner knowing, that strange, ineffable place we go to when we write, or paint, or sculpt. (Or dance, or play the violin…you get the picture! Oh! Or take pictures!)
These tiny surrenders to our creativity, of giving in to the impulse to kindness and courage, reverberate little in our own lives but echo and multiply over years and miles. That’s the beauty and power of art. I mean, people are still reading those small little poems written by Enheduanna in 2285-2250 BCE. That’s amazing.
Change the World # 4: Turning hate into beauty with our creativity
If you’re a writer or any creative—you’re probably on social media. Even without being internationally famous, this kind of presence that seems so integral to our success can make our lives like a lamppost, attracting all the moths that come with being a bright light in a dark place.
A great example of turning something hurtful into something helpful is Kate Baer, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of What Kind Of Woman. Her new book of poems I Hope This Finds You Well, are pieces written from base material that range from (well-meaning?) advice to outright harassment that she’s received over the years as a writer. She deletes, moves around, and uses the words of hate (or ignorance) she’s received and turns them into poetry that inspires, motivates, and sustains.
Turning hate into beauty with our creativity is a most agreeable way to change the world.
Change the World # 5: Creativity is just another word for intuition—use it!
Where do ideas come from? Why do we replay the same themes over and over in our art?
The beauty of creativity is that it might tell us to take a pottery class, or sign up for a book club, or finally try meditation. When we allow ourselves to embody our authentic, wildly creative selves, we give space for others to do so as well. These acts of courage, small enough in our own lives, can cause tsunamis of miracles on someone else’s shore.
Besides, even forgetting the benefits to others we may never know or see, there’s something deliciously rebellious about doodling with a poem in a shaft of sunlight instead of filing that document or typing that next assignment. It feels like indulging. It isn’t.
Who knows how far our words or images will reach. What child not yet born will read our words or cry at the painting of our firstborn daughter?
You’re a creative. Put down the laundry. It will always be there. Go change the world. Go create.
Tell us in the comments: how will you change the world with your creativity?
Angela Yeh hails from Atlantic Canada but lives and works in Texas – after her liberal arts degree she wandered into Corporate Canada but managed to escape. She is a fantasy author who is gobsmacked she gets to work for and with writers from all over the world at DIYMFA.com. She considers it a personal challenge to find an article or podcast that will answer any question you ask us. Bring it on!
She lives with her small family, big Texas pine trees, and three cranky fur babies. You can check her out on Instagram or Twitter.