The courage of creativity
I want to delve further into the concept and action of creativity. And perhaps even to the furthest branch of brain-bending constructs: ‘purpose’.
I talked in my first essay about child-like openness, play, and the ease with which children go out and create, or pursue their dreams and how we as adults often struggle against our fears when wanting to create. Fear of judgment, fear of failure and our difficulty in trusting ourselves.
Part of the reason behind me beginning this collection of ‘Everyday Essays’ was purely selfish. I’m not afraid to admit that. Actually I believe it was part of my application for the gig! I’m using this experience as a chance for me to face my own fears and re-find my once flourishing creativity (something I believe we all possess! And in beautifully unique ways). It’s an untraversed path for me, writing about concepts and issues I often have swimming around in my mind. But I experienced a strong feeling that if I didn’t start sorting through these thoughts in an engaged way then I was denying myself an opportunity to grow, not just as a creative, but as a person. And if I ignored all these ideas, then I was locking myself into a cycle that continued to allow my anxiety to hold my head under the water. But let’s save that topic for another day (and I promise I’m not just avoiding it. Well maybe, but just for today.)
So. What is it to re-find or access our creative selves? Especially when our daily jobs are already creative in their nature? And why should we?
I grew up in an extremely creative home. My Dad built, baked, composed, performed, but also had a maths brain. My Mum too composed, played, sang but also liked drawing and languages. My sister was into art of all kinds and I won’t deny I had to get her to help me with some angles in one of my Year 9 art assignments. She was in Year 6 at the time. I definitely took credit for the magnificent visual perspective. But what I’m getting to is that I was constantly surrounded by the culture of open creativity. There was no sense of shame or embarrassment when sharing a new composition or drawing or biscuit, (there was never any complaints when biscuits were shared, who am I kidding) but quite the opposite. There was a sense of excitement. And we would grow closer as a family. And not in the cheesy, singing Kumbaya sense, but in the sense that the giving of our creative endeavours meant we felt safe and loved, no matter the project or its perceived quality.
So what happens when we feel unsafe? When our environment, or path as a creative is uncertain? When we really want to try pottery or play the piano in public (without apology) or write our own show but we immediately jump forward to imagining the crumbling vase, the stumbling left hand or the bad reviews?
I believe there are a couple of issues here to do with the concept of Mastery and Audience.
We desire to be extraordinary. To live extraordinarily. To show mastery in a multitude of skills. And I’m not saying this isn’t a valid desire, but I’m suggesting that perhaps we are missing a step, or are frightened by the potential visibility of the step that can guide us to mastery.
A major flaw in the desire to be extraordinary is the dismissal of the ordinary, the simple, the rudimentary: the creative process. In a society of constant comparison we are shamed into hiding our process. Or being so afraid of that process being seen that we are either scared off the creative project completely, or do it in the dark until a final shining product is ready for an audience.
We want to jump straight to the A-list. We want to hide the ‘working out’ because it doesn’t show our best work. Or perhaps that is another lie. It doesn’t show our best ‘product’. Our best work IS the work. It is the process – much like a long division problem – that I think really shows our mastery. It is the struggle and uncertainty in the journey of creation that is extraordinary. Our ability to be resourceful, to be imaginative, to show courage, to be honest. The value of creativity is not the success of the product, but the courage of the process. And this requires us sometimes to engage with the removal of our ego, because I believe, in the end, our desire for our creative work is to create for others. When we seek perfection the work is self-centred. When the work is a gift for an audience then we are creating honestly.
In a conversation I had with a friend, he mentioned that during the recording of an album he requested that “mistakes” he had made stay in the final mix. The reason was that it was real, and a real reflection of the connection he had at the time with the music and lyrics. He wasn’t at all worried about how it sounded, because that would be simply for his own benefit, and in actual fact his imperfections leant themselves to an authentic listening experience for the audience.
The audience. How many ‘likes’ will I get? What if I embarrass myself? Will I lose credibility in my own field by trying something else? Will people think I’m being a show off? Will any one even show up? The truth is you might not get any ‘likes’, you might stack it or accidentally flash a crowd (*cough cough*) or you might meet those who think you are a tall poppy and should stick to your day job.
This is the reality.
We often have to nurse hurt feelings, or get up again after being knocked down or even take a grain of salt to accompany compliments or outrageously excellently flattering reviews (now, how do I get one of those?) but I think the question we can ask ourselves when thinking about our potential audiences viewing our creative process is not “what if I do create?” but “what if I DON’T create?”.
[pull_left]The process of exploring our creativity gives us purpose, an ever evolving path to traverse and helps us to grow and expand[/pull_left]
Who am I being creative for? Am I denying myself an opportunity? Am I taking away one of those things that makes me joyous in life? Am I neglecting my own growth and thus removing inspiration from other people?
I am constantly inspired by other people’s work: watching covers in rehearsal, hearing an instrumentalist nut out a tricky bit of score, watching an artist go through multitudes of rough sketches. And then you see them perform their first lead, hear them nail that section of music or complete the artwork. Their courage and resourcefulness gives me permission to find mine. And you know what? I think it all feeds straight back into your day job.
So that all comes together to create purpose. The process of exploring our creativity gives us purpose, an ever evolving path to traverse and helps us to grow and expand. And by doing it, even just for our own enjoyment, we encourage others in their own processes. And that is pretty extraordinary.
So I encourage you to whip out those paints, or enter that poem competition, or chuck that wonky vase in the kiln and share your extraordinarily ordinary creative process! Art is nothing if it doesn’t keep us connected to our own humanity. The journey to mastery is exciting, fulfilling and challenging and it’s well worth dancing with uncertainty. And thank you for reading this newbie’s process!
If you are keen to explore your creativity – why not apply for the 2015 Rob Guest Endowment? Applications close July 26.
Naomi is an actor, musician, composer and first time mother. She is a WAAPA graduate but only after a detour via an arts degree where she majored in Theoretical Performance Study and Psychology. Her work includes The Libertine (Sport for Jove), John and Jen (Sydney Fringe), Wicked (GFO, Asia Tour), the release of the album “So Long Lives This” (Drew and Na Livingston) and currently performing in the Australian Tour of Les Miserables.