“You Don’t Owe Them Shit” – a letter to a Creative Person
Writing: Milla Tuokkola
To whom it might concern,
Hello! It’s me, Milla. I’m a creative person. I wanted to write this letter to you, a fellow Creative Person. “A letter? Isn’t that a little bit odd? Couldn’t you have chosen a more conventional format of writing, like an article, essay or a column?” you might ask. “Haha, Creative Person, you’re so funny! I like your wit,” I reply, “But all joking aside, I have something important I want to tell you. And I wanted you to understand and take my words to heart. So, I felt like a personal letter is the best way for me to do this.” And I’m sorry for my messy penmanship.
So, you’re a Creative Person! Congratulations on your talent! I’m glad that you’ve found something in your life that gives you joy and makes you feel fulfilled. The beautiful gift we get with our creativity is that it never peaks. You’ll only get better at what you’re passionate about. I’ve been a Creative Person since the age of 4 or so, but it’s not a competition. I know people who didn’t realise that they were a Creative Person until they were well into their adulthood. I’ve been extremely lucky as I’ve been able to become a Professional Creative Person. It’s been a wonderful experience being able to do what I love the most, do work that feels extremely personal to me, and have people react to it favourably. And then pay me. But the longer I’ve been a Creative Person, the more and more aware I’ve become of a certain ancient myth, a dangerous lie in our community that I would like to address now:
You don’t have to enable your mental illness for the sake of you being a Creative Person.
You can have a mental illness AND be a Creative Person. You can also treat your mental illness and STILL be a Creative Person. The history of Creative People has glamorised mental illness and linked it directly with talent in a way that is downright irresponsible. We consider the likes of Hemingway, Foster Wallace, Woolf and Plath as Creative Person geniuses, and credit most of their achievements to the way they were able to address and write about their mental illness. All four ended up killing themselves, but boy, wasn’t their writing sure something?
Being a Creative Person is a helpful tool, it allows you to handle your emotions and inner turmoil and turn it into art. But if you’re suffering from a mental illness which is making the quality of your life worse and leaving the illness untreated because you’re afraid it will affect your art, I’m here to ask you to not do that, please. And it’s not worth it, I swear. These are just some of the dangerous myths I’ve been told as a Professional Creative Person: a real writer writes everyday, no exceptions. Writing is a passion, not a job. Thus writing should never feel like work.
Can you imagine if I said that a REAL surgeon should perform surgery every single day of their lives? Would you trust that person to operate on you after they’ve exhausted themselves for years on end? Would you expect any other profession to enjoy their job every day? Would you not allow your cashier a bad day? Being a Creative Person is a profession like any other. It’s not a God sent otherworldly gift, it’s a talent like any other. Just like maths, being good at woodwork or having an excellent memory, being a Creative Person doesn’t obligate you to exhaust yourself.
You’re allowed to not do it every day. You’re allowed to turn away and stop what you’re doing for as long as you want. Being mentally ill isn’t the one true way to feel connected to your inner self and create work from your raw emotions. Being a Creative Person isn’t larger than life, and if something is threatening your life, you deserve to seek help and take care of yourself.
What’s the point of creating something beautiful if you’re not around to enjoy other people connecting to your work?
I hope you’re well.