November 24, 2009

Creativity and Courage

“No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge.” Jack Kerouac

I have friends (who shall remain nameless) who are not creative. They state it that way: “We are just not creative.” They don’t consider themselves to be artists in any form ~ no writers, painters, or interpretive dancers. But the thing is, they are very creative in what they do. Some are homemakers and cook fabulous meals and sew clothes and costumes. Others do woodworking or keep Home & Garden lawns. One even spells his name in his dissertation with one letter of his name beginning each chapter. (Many of these friends are married to writers or other creative types, which makes you wonder if they are unconsciously trying to acknowledge this part of their makeup.)

I think part of the gap comes from the definition of “creative.” My definition of the word “creative” is someone who creates. It can be creating anything ~ a home, a family, even. I think many of these friends define “creativity” much more narrowly and exclusively, as only applying to the fine arts.

Part of what I wonder, too, is if it’s a matter of courage. It takes courage to stake a claim like this and assert it to the world. “I am a writer.” “I am an artist.” It’s scary and dangerous. What you’re doing when you make a piece of art is putting yourself out there. It’s not physically dangerous but emotionally and identity-ly (is there a word for this?). People could rip your heart out and stomp on it. And if you’re putting it out there, they are ~ regularly ~ with rejections or just ignoring you, though they don’t mean to stomp. It’s as if you’re asking a girl (or boy) to the prom every time you stick that stamp or click that send button. So you have to develop a thick skin and have confidence in yourself and roll with the punches. (Insert your favorite cliché here.)

Now that I think of it, part of it too is that you have to be selfish to be creative, and someone schooled to minimize self tries to “claim” as little as possible. Hmmm. I’ll have to explore this in more depth in another post.

So here’s what I say: You should be proud of yourself for simply having the courage to put the words on paper or brush strokes to canvas. You should be doubly proud of tentatively shooing that offspring into the cruel world, knowing full-well the odds of it getting run over by a Mack truck. To those of you who are creative, I salute you!

What I’m Reading Today: Kent Meyers’s Twisted Tree. Knocked my socks off, man! Or rather, knocking, since I haven’t finished it. But you have to get through the first story, which is compelling and lyrical but very Lolita-esque.

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