The “why business” question was one I was asked a lot during my undergrad, largely by people who had known me for some years.

And it’s true that I’m a bit of an odd figure in the MBA classroom these days. Middle aged, fat, no makeup, jeans and t-shirts. A bandanna tied over unkempt hair. I am very liberal, staunchly in favor of regulating businesses, in favor of taxing businesses and the wealthy. I am an environmentalist. I am a feminist, and I talk about racialized violence and the oppression of the disabled and the poor. I have zero interest in an executive position; in fact becoming an executive sounds boring in the extreme to me.

I am an artist, I am a writer, I am a creative worker. I am angry and sad and I’m a class clown type. I am poor. I am a person with a disability. I am queer, I am an Emma Goldman fan.

One person, a checker at a nearby grocery store, gave me a sidelong glance. “Taking the system down from the inside. I like it.”

He wasn’t far from the truth, honestly. But the idea of “taking the system down” feels a bit far-fetched to me.

I have come to believe that commerce and enterprise are baked into human behavior. Business would continue to exist in some form even if we were to belly-flop into a post-scarcity economic system. And it should! Business is good.

I started my college career as an art student, and promptly dropped out. When I went back to school as an adult, I decided to major in Business Administration because I thought that what was missing from the arts curriculum was business acumen. After all, most people who enter the arts as a profession is at some level going to have to be a business person; there are contracts to manage and rights to manage and taxes to pay. We end up working for ourselves at some point.

Also, I am a novelist with close to zero interest in working with the big five publishers; I was likely going to have to figure this out on my own.

So I went into business. Once immersed in the business curriculum, I fell in love.

I knew I wanted a master’s degree after graduation. I asked my English department advisor (I minored in creative writing) whether I should pursue an MFA, and her response was, “Nah, you already know how to write.”

So I applied to an MBA program.

I questioned whether this was the right course of action, and I still do. Am I too weird to get a reasonable job in this field? Will I have to femme it up just to get by? Will I have to move away from my adopted hometown?

But sometimes we must move as the spirit bids.

I opened my essay on my MBA application with a quote from Andy Warhol:

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. During the hippie era people put down the idea of business. They’d say ‘money is bad’ and ‘working is bad’. But making money is art, and working is art – and good business is the best art.”

Andy Warhol’s philosophy of mass producing art lead to a democratization of artwork, allowing any of us to have art in our homes, in our lives. It turned art into something practical and absurd at the same time.

I was accepted into the program.

My view of business is that it’s intrinsic to the human condition. Commerce has been a part of our daily lives for as long as we have record, and there’s evidence to argue that commerce structured our societies even before history’s record begins.

Having a hand in business means having a hand in societal structures, at least as much as being in politics or mass media. The fact of the matter is that if people like me eschew the study and practice of business as “evil” and “inherently corrupt,” we are giving up the chance to have a hand in shaping society. By giving that up, we are necessarily putting that power in the hands of those who do not think like we do. Who do not see business as an opportunity to shape a better society. Who do not consider the shape and well-being of our society at all.

So in a way, I guess I see it as my responsibility, especially seeing as so many of my peers have zero interest in the whole thing. We are guilty of allowing the already wealthy and corrupt into positions of incredible power by abdicating our voices in business. Sound like a familiar story? Because we’ve done it in politics, too. By believing the American political system to be inherently evil, we have handed it over to the people most likely to use it for their own ends.

This doesn’t mean I’ll take the business world by storm. I have no interest in running a billion dollar company or becoming a figure on the national stage, even if the national stage would have my weird ass on it at all.

But we can use these skills on the small scale, bettering our own communities, opposing businesses that aren’t in keeping with the well-being of our citizens and fostering programs that leave us all better off.

 

I remember when I was young thinking that freedom was the essence of creativity. Longing for this idea of unconstrained creativity, this state that would allow me to create at my best, free from limitations.

Here’s the thing about that. Unconstrained creativity doesn’t exist.

I play this video game called Ark Survival Evolved. A part of the game is building structures. YouTube experts in the game recommend that those interested in building find the biggest, flattest piece of land they can to start building on. It’s easier to build on flat spaces.

But whenever I’ve taken this advice, I’ve ended up with big boring boxes.

The times when I’ve chosen landscapes that were interesting to me and built into and around these landscapes were times that I ended up with remarkable structures, and they’re the times when I worked on them the most obsessively, driven forward by the process of creation.

They’re not beautiful, by any means. But they’re interesting, and they work, and I enjoy building them.

The reason they’re interesting, and the reason I enjoy them, is that they were created through the process of problem solving.

This is the essence of creativity. Problem solving.

It took me a while to wrap my head around this one. I never considered myself an ace problem solver until the people in my life started pointing out the places where I succeeded in developing creative solutions to problems.

These weren’t big dramatic things. It was figuring out how to get by while poor. Finding ways to cope with deep mental illness. Setting up systems that would allow me to succeed in school and work even when I was struggling. Day to day stuff.

But wait, you might ask, how does this related to literature and the arts? Creativity for creativity’s sake?

I don’t believe that creativity happens for its own sake. I believe that it serves human needs at every stage of production and consumption. But this problem solving is the root of creativity in an artistic sense as well. I don’t sit down at a blank page and just… draw something. I don’t sit down in front of my laptop and just… write something. There’s intent there. There are questions. There are problems to be solved.

How do I communicate to the viewer how impossibly beautiful I find this thing?

How do I create an image of pain?

How do I get the protagonist of this story from where she is to where I need her to be?

How should I structure this piece to be accessible to the widest possible audience?

What is exciting about this to other people?

Who will be looking at this and what do they want?

Which need does this fulfill?

It took me a long time to move beyond the mysticism that cloaks our view of creative work and connect it to problem solving in my own mind, but it was a vital frame change. Without it, I would never have understood the roots of my own drive to create, and I would have continued in fits and starts, probably never completing a novel because I wasn’t answering the vital questions underlying each project.

And I would never have connected creativity to my day-to-day work, treating it as a tool in my toolkit, and I never would have had a chance to achieve what I had the potential to achieve.

This division between the creative and the mundane is invented, and artists and writers who propagate this myth are participating in their own destruction. It is not a sacred calling, and believing it to be such only enslaves us to a monastic existence, prepared to work for free because we’re called to it.

Never doubt that when you’re exercising your creative skills that you’re doing something practical and vital. It is not magic. It is work you do with your brain, and it has value in the real world.

 

 

Hello.

Looks like I haven’t posted here since 2016. I had no idea it had been that long. This blog just kept falling away, pushed to later and later dates on my to-do list.

The last few years have been an adventure.

Let’s see, where to start.

I originally let this blog go because I was overwhelmed with school. I returned to university as an adult student and graduated with my BA in Business Administration (focus in Marketing) in December of 2018, at the age of 40. I did not walk in my graduation ceremony; the idea of waiting around for my turn to walk across a stage didn’t appeal to me.

During my junior year in university I experienced a collapse in my physical and mental health. I let it get to the point where I could barely walk before I took action. The result of habits formed over years of living without medical coverage. Cope if you can. Drink lots of water and see if it goes away. Try drinking less alcohol. Take some ibuprofen. I didn’t seek help for my mental health until paranoid delusions threatened to consume my relationships with my community.

I have since been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and bipolar I disorder (with psychosis) respectively and entered treatment for both. Pills became a permanent part of my life. Morning pills, evening pills, blue pills, white pills.

While the world is designed to encourage me to keep my psych diagnosis a secret, talking about it openly is a way that I can combat stigma against the mentally ill. I have the ability and the resources to do that, so I do, in hopes it will help me and those that don’t have the ability and the resources that I have,

My aged little cat Cassie died at the age of 20. She was blind and deaf and suffering from severe kidney disease. I still miss her.

I have continued to write fiction, when I have time for it. I am also doing some freelance blog writing to put food on the table. I am currently unemployed.

I have enrolled in the MBA program at Western Washington University and have just completed my first quarter of the program. It is challenging, even though a lot of the material is stuff I covered in my undergrad. Having my degree in business gives me a leg up, but not much of one. School consumes most of my life, but I hope it will lead to a fulfilling career later on, and I will no longer need to arrange trips to the food bank.

I have come out as bisexual and non-binary. The pronouns she/her and they/them are both appropriate.

I like my MBA cohort. It’s a diverse group of people with many points of view, and I find them personable and interesting. I am the oldest among the cohort. This is both a positive and a negative thing.

I have missed writing here. I have thought about this blog often during the last few years, thinking that I should get back into that.

Today, I hope, is the day I finally do it.

I’m hoping to maintain a weekly (at least) blogging habit here. It will be personal, professional, pointless, and poignant by turns. This is perhaps not the wisest choice, but I’ve never been lauded for my wisdom. Intelligence, yes. Capability, yes. Wisdom, not so much.

This is a place where I can like and celebrate myself.

I should spend more time here.

I missed you.