We all have this wonderful gift called creativity. Mine was given to me by my parents. Maybe you got it from yours, or a teacher, or an aunt or uncle, a mentor. Or maybe you don’t think you are creative at all. Now, I don’t think that creativity is inherited. I believe it is more like a house plant, nurtured, watered and allowed to grow. We are born with creativity, to be artistic, to problem solve in some way. But for lots of us creativity (in the traditional sense) is considered to be useless. At some point we learn that sharing our creativity, whatever that may be, opens us up to being vulnerable, to be ridiculed. And in defense, we eventually shut that part of us off. The creative child in us withers, dries up and fades away. Fast forward 20 years and we find ourselves in a job that doesn’t stimulate us and we don’t like, projecting our lives through sit-com characters or sports heroes that aren’t real and thinking to ourselves, “This isn’t the life I was supposed to be Living.” Or as Colin Hay wrote, “I’m waiting for my real life to begin.”
What I have noticed as I get older, is that at some point I stopped giving a shit about what other’s think about my passions. I share it with the world and I don’t entirely care who says what. Good or bad. Yes, good OR bad. It’s as if I have reverted back to when I was 6 years old begging my older brother to watch me put on my lip-syncing performance of “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, choreography and all. Except this time, I don’t care that he calls me a moron half way through my set and walks out laughing. The pain was real. (Thanks Dr. Monroe for your years of therapy)
I recently had an experience after playing music at a small venue. A guy came up to me after the show and said to me how great he thought my band’s music was. My band is a three piece “dad band” that plays 90% original music. We do it because we love to write and perform music. I said thank you to the man and continued to pack up our gear. Moments later another guy came up and gave me the most unsolicited nonconstructive criticism of the night. “I noticed you flubbed through that solo on the first song of the second set. Did you just make that up right now? Or was that on purpose?” Ha ha ha! Fuck you, buddy. Would be my normal reaction to such a comment. Or maybe, “You want to show me what you would do?” Hoping to god the guy is just a critic and can’t actually play guitar at all. But, The part that struck me, or maybe the part that didn’t strike me until the car ride home was, the weight BOTH comments held. None. Yes, none. In the past the praise would have been nice to hear (it still is) and I would have shared the compliment with the guys, a few friends, definitely my fiance and probably a family member or two, in hopes of fishing secondary praise. The criticism… I would have talked it out with the band, got a feel of it, (Is this true? Is he right? Did we suck?) and then let it play like a broken record in my head for the next week or two as it ate away at my soul and crushed my spirit until I decided that I needed to ditch whatever part of the night the patron felt was so absolutely terrible that he was compelled to tell me about it, as he walked out of the room laughing calling me a moron. But now… amazingly…a simple “Thanks for listening. I hope you come again, it’s different every time” falls out of my mouth and I went about my business.
It has taken me decades to figure out that I don’t do these wonderful things that bring such amazing joy for anyone but myself. I’m no longer that windup monkey that will slap the cymbals together to entertain you. The pleasure is all mine. Literally! I draw or paint because I love to draw or paint. I carve wood because I get a deep satisfaction from doing it. I play and write music because I love to do it. And creativity doesn’t end with visual arts. I love to problem solve, I love to brainstorm, I love puzzles, I love writing! I love being creative! Not because of what you think of me when the day is done, but because of the process, the energy it brings to me, the feeling of actually being the most human I can be. “I think, therefore, I AM!” We all think, we are all creative, we all “are”. And at the end of the day, when the lights are out, and the quiet stillness allows me to hear my own thoughts, they will be my thoughts. Because this is all about me.