Just think of a scenario - A young person is talking about his career choices with his family and he says something like, “I want to be a musician” or “I want to be a writer”. While the family might support the boy, there will be a few doubtful eyes in the crowd. There’s something about creative ventures that seems to make people nervous. They ask you a million questions. “Are you sure? Aren’t you afraid you’re going to fail? Is it really a valid career option?” If someone told their family that they wanted to be a doctor, everyone would be ecstatic and none of the above questions will be posed.
Now, this is not entirely their fault. Creative people do have a reputation for being enormously mentally unstable. The deaths of creative people in the past and the present show an alarming statistic. If we look at the past 100 years, we have lost a lot of creative people at a very young age and often at their own hands. Be it musicians like Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison… the list goes on. It’s not just musicians, we can find that in every field. Norman Mailer, just before he died had said, “Every one of my books has killed me a little more.” This hardly even surprises us nowadays, because we have somehow come to accept this notion that creativity and suffering are inherently linked. I honestly cannot believe that we have come to terms with this false notion. Creativity and suffering are not linked. Once we have that cleared up, we can move on.
All this brings us to one question. What is creativity? Or how/where does creativity come from? Ancient Greeks and Romans believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to humans from a distant unknown source. The Greeks called them daemons while the Romans called them genius. They would invisibly assist the artist with their work. That is quite a fascinating idea. A daemon or a faery that lived within the walls of your home or studio that assisted with your work.
The American poet Ruth Stone had a quite different approach to this topic. She said that she would be out in the fields, working, and she would feel a poem coming at her from the landscape as a train of air. And as she felt it coming, she would get a pencil and paper and as it thundered through her, she would collect it and grab it on the page.
Now, while there may be different ideas about creativity in different cultures around the world, I do not want to talk about that. What I want to talk about is how a lot of people simply neglect their creativity. The reasons might be different. Some may feel that they are simply not good enough while some just choose to blatantly ignore it out of boredom, unwillingness to work or their huge egos. Now that is a tragedy. There is nothing more painful than seeing a person just throw away their creative genius. Your creativity is like a car. It may be the best in the world, but it won’t mean shit unless you get in and drive it. You’ve got to really work hard to achieve what you want to achieve.
Of course, there are obstacles along the way. No one said that it’s going to be a bed of roses. People aren’t always going to be supportive and there will be times when you begin to doubt yourself. That, my friends, is a dark time. It happens to the best. You reach a point where you feel like you’re not getting it done. Where you begin to feel like your best has already passed and that anything you work on from now on is going to be absolute shite. In those moments, it is often hard to find solace and this is what often drives people to those dark places. If you ever find yourself in such a situation, all I can say is, “turn up and do your part”.
Whether you believe in the elusive genius/daemon like the Romans and the Greeks did or whether you believe that it’s like the wind that flows through you, it doesn’t matter. Just do your job. If you’re a dancer, dance, if you’re a singer, sing, if you’re a writer, write! Maybe you’ll get that glimpse of magic, that one moment of wonderment and if you do, grab on to it with both hands. And if not, don’t be afraid. Do your dance anyhow, and you will be rewarded just for having the sheer love and stubbornness to keep showing up.
Sketch By: Kashmira Sequeira