Yip Harburg was a famous lyricist (“Over the Rainbow”, anyone?) who discovered himself during the hardest of times: the Great Depression.

I went into business… I thought I’d retire in a year or two. And a thing called Collapse, bango! socked everything out. 1929. All I had left was a pencil.

Luckly, I had a friend named Ira Gershwin, and he said to me, “You’ve got your pencil. Get your rhyming dictionary and go to work.” I did. There was nothing else to do…

I was relieved when the Crash came. I was released. Being in business was something I detested. When I found that I could sell a song or a poem, I became me, I became alive. Other people didn’t see it that way. They were throwing themselves out of windows.

Someone who lost money found that his life was gone. When I lost my possessions, I found my creativity. I felt I was being born for the first time. So for me the world became beautiful.

(From Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression, by Studs Terkel)