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Impatiently bypassing Creativity

We often begin life with impatience, sometimes through epidurals and c-sections to start us on our journey into this world. If we are slow to speak, we are prompted and encouraged with some anxiety. If we are slow to read, the anxiety becomes even greater, and after that each new hurdle in learning is laced with fear of being left behind, and thought of as stupid. How will children who don’t score well, reflect on parents? Will our children be able to succeed? Will they go to an Ivy league school? Will this go on our permanent record?

Theodor Geisel : aka Dr. Seuss.  became successful writing in his 40s.

Theodor Geisel : aka Dr. Seuss. became successful writing in his 40s.

We are tested, pushed, measured in so many ways and most importantly we learn to compare ourselves with others. There are generic tests, and generic methods for teaching children to think of the world, and in the midst of all this push to teach students to memorize times tables, and understand word problems, creativity gets increasingly left behind. Daydreaming is considered a dangerous notion in terms of learning, and leads to diagnoses like ADHD.

By the time we are young adults we’re finding ourselves ushered into careers and jobs we barely remember entertaining. Many of us suffer from an underdeveloped use of our creativity, and still have that longing to engage that creativity – yet we persist often robotically through jobs, and eight hour work days, and job reviews that our careers seem to hinge on, while commuting two hours daily, and suppressing the need to be creative.

Toni Morrison, published her first novel at 40.

Toni Morrison, published her first novel at 40.

In today’s world we also compare ourselves to others as artists, always tearing ourselves down as never being good enough. You couldn’t possibly be as good as Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Toni Morrison, or name your favorite artist, so why bother? We are impatient with our first attempts at a new medium, whether it’s writing, or oil painting and very often the door quickly closes. We equate monetary success with creativity, because so often that is what the world has celebrated. What if following a creative path meant inventing something that no one has even thought of before? It could be ground breaking, and yet go unrecognized, uncelebrated. Such were the impressionists when they began their ground breaking work.

Self doubt though, even for successful artists is an ever present beast. VanGogh, Cezanne, being examples of people who struggled with their art.

Robert Frost : Published his first collection of poems at 39.

Robert Frost : Published his first collection of poems at 39.

Art though is an accumulation of experiences. It is a step by step process of honing skills, and having self discovery and discovering what you want to say as you create. It may take years to get to your opus, but artists who get to their most celebrated works often take decades to get there.

More importantly for the person who is creative, and not listening to that inner voice that says, “write!” or “paint!” or “act!” then these people never get to follow that voice and experience any of the self discovery that might come from following this path.

It is risky business for sure. You may spend twenty years writing poetry, and honing your craft and hoping to connect with an audience. Creativity and being an artist has something to do with communicating, yes, but it also has a lot to do with simply expressing something that wants to come through.

So is it risky business? What if what it gives is something along the lines of meditation, self knowledge, and introspection? Are these things not valued because they don’t have a direct and linear monetary value?

I’m not writing this because I don’t suffer from self doubt, I am writing this because I do suffer from self doubt, and the persecuting voices that either say it isn’t important, or isn’t good enough. A lifetime of training that minimized creativity in schools (art and music for instance) in favor of geometry, trigonometry etc. Those things that could be measured to prove how smart we are vs those things that could help us to become more creative. Creativity is essentially squashed and in the end creative people sit on that creative energy and resist letting it up.

Years ago, I cut off from my artwork for a period of time. When I did, I felt bottled up, unhappy and cut-off. When I listened to those musings inside and started to write, and draw and paint again, there was an explosion of energy that came out. I learned that it was folly to cut off from such a big part of myself and now I feel out of sorts when I don’t get enough time to be creative.

So the question is, are you cutting off from your well-spring? If so, how can you let it in? When you open the door, be patient with yourself. Remember that your creative self has been bottled up, crammed down and abused for decades. Try to be gentle with yourself and let it come. Listen to the voices that want to create and simply do what we all do, try, practice, fail, and try again.

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