In which I pontificate about creativity

When I sat down to write something for today I absolutely and completely drew a blank.  There are lots of topics I could have chosen to write about, certainly.  I’ve seen several movies lately including the delightfully ridiculous Kingsmen and the sweet, touching story of Pixar’s Inside Out.  Both of these movies are worth watching and certainly worth talking about, but the subject didn’t particularly call to me.  I could have chosen to write about where I am in my crafting, but that seemed redundant considering I keep a blog entirely devoted to that subject (not that you’ll never hear about it, I’m only human).  I could have whined some more about my goals while giving excuses for why I haven’t done them yet, but we’re all tired of that subject (though I am making progress with my strumstick and can even play a few simple songs!).  I could talk about current event stuff like the recent ruling by the Supreme Court on marriage equality or opened a discussion about the Confederate flag and the recent tragedy in South Carolina, both are subjects very worthy of discussion.

All of these and more are interesting subjects, but none of them called to me.  I could write about them, but it would be difficult and possibly not even very good (for a given value of my writing even being “good” in the first place).  I was, and I cringe to even type this, not “inspired” by any of those subjects.  For some I think the subject is exhausted, at least for the moment.  Others I might revisit, and for the more controversial I have to confess that I honestly believe there are those out there writing about these subjects with a better and more knowledgable perspective.  Though in the end I just didn’t feel like writing about any of them.  Creative pursuits are interesting that way, and it goes for a lot more than writing.  Getting motivated by a project that doesn’t move you can be really hard, even if you are being paid well for your work.  And it’s hard to do creative work when you don’t feel any passion for your subject.

I think it really all comes down to ego.

Creativity itself is not egotistical, it’s a very abstract concept that we usually tend to think means artistic pursuits that produce physical work: painting, drawing, writing, photography.  Some even have an expanded concept of creativity that includes things like knitting, sewing, maybe even graphic design because one must be creative on some level to design.  You might even include singing or other performance work, though creativity honestly gets crazy mundane.  It takes a truly creative person to see a full dishwasher and still find a way to rearrange everything to include another casserole dish, or someone who’s computer chair loses a wheel and they jerry-rig a way to keep the chair upright with some basic office supplies.  Creativity is important because it lets us find better solutions for not only “creative” pursuits, but also our mundane problems and difficulties.
Ok, creativity is established as an abstract concept that includes nonlinear thinking in many ways (paraphrase of the above paragraph if that is not what you got out of it), so why even bring up ego?  Let’s get back to those artistic pursuits.  Making a piece of art, writing a blog post or a book, crocheting an adorable yarny version of old Nintendo game characters are all acts of creation and that still isn’t an act of ego.  The ego comes in when we display it, sell it, post it, publish it.  If you make something, truly make something for yourself, there is no ego because what anyone else thinks doesn’t matter, it was made for you.  But doing any of the above brings other people’s approval into the mix and that’s where the ego comes in.  This is the point in which you value your creation, your voice, opinions, and vision enough that you think it deserves to be validated.  This isn’t a bad thing, I’m not criticizing it, but I definitely recognize what it means when I whip out whatever project is in my crochet bag to show off to others.  I want them to look at it, to be impressed by it, and to know that I made it.  I might be a bit modest if someone compliments me, but the end result is that I wanted them to be impressed by my work.  And that is undeniably ego (which we’ve established is not necessarily a bad thing).

This only becomes a problem if validation is all someone’s seeking.  This is true for anything, not just creative stuff.  When other people’s or even a single person’s validation is more important than anything else that’s when you need to step back and ask yourself: Would I still write if no one else would ever see what I wrote?  Would I sing this song or play this instrument if no one else ever heard me?  Would I paint these pictures, crochet these dolls, take these photographs if no one else ever saw another piece of my work again?  Because there will be a day when this feels like the truth.  There will come a time when it seems like no one cares about whatever it is you’re doing so if you’re doing it for someone else and no one’s watching, why would you keep doing it?  First and foremost you have to create for yourself.    I think good exercise in that direction is to pick a small project and do it for yourself and no one else.  And when I say no one else, I mean it.  Don’t show it to anyone else, don’t take a picture and post it on social media, don’t even mention it in passing because it was made by you for you and you alone.  If, in the end, you still love the process and the result and could do it again then even when no one seems to be watching you’ll never stop creating.  And maybe, if you’re lucky and work hard enough and want it enough, you might be able to do it everyday and make a living at it and that must be the most amazing feeling in the world.

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