When Writing is All We Got
On creativity and Chance the Rapper.
It’s no secret that the artist who made the biggest impact on me in 2016 (and into 2017) is Chance the Rapper. And one of my fave songs on his critically acclaimed Coloring Book album is “All We Got”:
The song is no doubt autobiographical and reflective of Chance’s experience as a fully indpendent hip-hop artist from Chicago’s Southside. For him, and many others who resonate with his story, “music is all we got — so we might as well give it all we got.”
But there’s a broader message here for all kinds of creative people, I think, and that’s what I’m reflecting on today. What if creativity is all we got? What if our art — whatever that art is — is really all we got? What if writing is all we got?
Well, then we might as well give it all we got.
Like most creators, I’m prone to self-doubt and to saying no for other people rather than committing fully to my creative work. I have a tendency to hold back or self-sabotage rather than lean in and embrace the vulnerability that comes with that. You too?
Fear, really, is the problem here. Fear is what makes us doubt what God has placed within us, the message that burns in our bones like the prophets of old. Fear is what gets our heads up above the grass, scanning and twitching at the slightest sign of a threat. Fear is what causes us to place our passion on the burner or only “try” it halfway with the expectation of failure. Intentional, expected failure is safer. Hiding feels less vulnerable. But all of it makes us miserable!
What if writing is all we got though? What if this art, this creative life, is really all we got? I don’t mean to the exclusion of other responsibilities and priorities in our lives, but I do mean our core identity as creators. If we compromise that and repress that, the consequences are deadly.
So what if it’s all we got?
Then we might as well give it all we got.
The second verse in Chance’s song is a brilliant example of creative confidence, blended beautifully with some downright spiritual swagger. If your day or week has got you down in any way, this is what you need to read, hear, and embrace right now:
I get my word from the sermon
I do not talk to the serpent
That’s the holistic discernment
Daddy said I’m so determined
Told me these goofies can’t hurt me
I just might make me some earl tea
I was baptized like real early
I might give satan a swirlie
Wish I could tell you it’s ready
Tell you it’s ready today
They don’t give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
And that don’t take nothing away
Cause at the end of the day
Music is all we got.
These goofies can’t hurt you. So give satan a swirlie today by creating right in the face of everything else that feels so threatening, so scary. Create and let it stand strong and bold in the midst of anything and anyone staring you down. You gotta fight for your way, for your core creative identity, for that message that burns within you, but that’s ok:
Because writing is all we got.
Like this article? See more at my website, Zach Hoag.
And don’t forget to check out my book, The Light is Winning: Why Religion Just Might Bring Us Back to Life.