I can’t say if creativity is bequeathed at birth or somehow manifests itself over the course of a person’s life. At four years old I could talk somebody’s ear off about fairies and princesses, supposedly making up elaborate stories as I went along and apparently never shut up. In middle school I was aptly nicknamed “The Boom box” because I sang whatever popped into my head, writing poems as if they were song lyrics. Ten years later I’d be cooking in my apartment with off the cuff recipes, discovering that a bagel sandwich with peanut butter, Nutella, and bacon is a pretty decent combination.
It might have been an antithesis for my lack of athleticism, but I’ve always had a competitive streak: I grew up in an incredibly sports-oriented family, and feel like a little kid whenever I get to watch my favorite teams (especially hockey). I also know several who are pretty damn good on the field as well as with an instrument, so that’s not to say that you have to be one or the other. Yet, it’s interesting how the right-brainers are met with skepticism, doubt, and even discouragement: they’re deemed idealistic at best, and unrealistic at worst.
Creatives tend to feel deeply and take notice of everything, almost to a fault. They know it’s partly because of who they are, and partly because it’s what they’re supposed to do: if you don’t pay attention and capture the details, the moments that matter most, then you won’t have anything to go off of. Inspiration can be a matter of waiting, but it’s also a matter of discovering.
For some, the threads of expression become a way to survive, especially when they can’t quite grasp what’s going on around them. As a teenager I wrote myself raw, where my dreams, thoughts, and feelings came out more clearly on paper than in actual conversation. I was in that confusing in between stage of not-quite being a kid, but definitely not an adult. Artistry, whether in the form of writing or music, was the comfort and support I craved and used to escape. I was told that I had a God given talent, but sharing it seemed to result in pushing people away, or I would become frustrated at the lack of empathy and understanding. I developed a sense of perfectionism, wanting to protect what I viewed as sacred, not to be blotted by the opinions of those who could only see from a distance.
“So…what are you going to do with that?”
It’s a question that most high school and college graduates are faced with, and a valid one. That being said, it’s often loaded with open-endedness and doesn’t really help in planning a future. It’s more thought provoking to ask, what are willing to sacrifice? What are you willing to give? And most importantly, how many times are you willing to pour your heart out and bare your soul, running the risk of getting sucker punched with a “You’re not good enough” at the end?
Not everyone wants to make a career (let alone a life), out of that, and it’s completely understandable. It’s a challenge, finding the balance of giving an audience what they want to see/hear, and saying what you want to say. There’s no shame in not wanting to stop loving what you do because you might be demanded to produce more than authentically create. The words are in my bones, but I’m not in a place where I’m ready to devote each and every day to being a full-time writer. I’m not ready for the isolation and quiet fury that comes with the territory, and I’m certainly not in a place financially to do it. I’m young and I want to establish myself first, which is why I went into marketing and content writing. It’s still cutthroat and competitive, but it gives me opportunities to be part of a team and form relationships, which I get most of my energy from.
I have a story to tell, and I will continue to do so regardless of the professional path I take. It takes courage to bleed vulnerability, knowing that some won’t understand where I’m coming from, and might even see it as a personal attack against them. I would never say anything to purposefully hurt anyone, but I can’t promise that it’s not going to be a tough pill to swallow.
I hear the skeptics, and I respect their opinions. But if you really stop and think about it, creativity is what keeps this crazy, ever-changing world going. None of us would stay sane if it wasn’t for art and entertainment, which is why I shake my head when people gripe about the latest book or movie/television phenomenon. Why is it so wrong to take a break from reality every once in a while, as long as you know how to separate fact from fiction? While some of it is definitely trash, it’s not the job of the creator to facilitate discussion about right and wrong.
For me it’s not about entertainment as much as it is about connecting with people; I’m much better at writing than I am at talking, so nine times out of ten I’ll give them an essay or something to read first before I try to articulate whatever it is that I’m mulling over. If they get weird about it, I’d like to think it’s because they see something in themselves that’s hard to face, or they just don’t get it. And that’s OK.
It comes down to doing what makes you come alive, and what makes you feel authentic. It doesn’t just involve pursuing happiness, but pursuing what makes you whole. Stop overthinking and trying to figure it all out, but go out and experience life. Ask questions. Allow yourself to go deep, get close, and get personal.
Occasionally I hear talk about schools motioning to remove art and music programs from their curriculum, and the prospect makes me sad. If this has to happen due to lack of funds or teachers, I hope that they can still incorporate it into learning somehow. Teach kids what it’s like to listen to the radio, music and movies that previous generations grew up with. Encourage them to play, be messy, and find joy while doing it. The world is certainly scary, unkind, and not the safest place to be in; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t beautiful either.
Never lose that sense of child-like wonder, regardless if time or experience makes you age. Explore. Write. Paint. Build. Be curious. Play. Stitch. Re-purpose. Finish. Savor. Breathe. Learn. Create. And live.