So I thought I’d write a post on creativity, as I think it’s a topic that has become a bit tangled and impure, with a lot of anxiety and efforts to be good and original attached to it, shredding it of the sheer fun that creativity can be. Below, I’ve listed three reasons why creativity shouldn’t be a big serious ego-orientated pursuit, fraught with comparison and perfectionism, but rather something fun and child-like, to be shared and enjoyed.
Art is a therapeutic process
A lot of people get worried about outcome, about making something good before they’ve even started, wanting whatever paint splodges or word choices to appear good and interesting. It’s intense, putting all the emphasis on making something good. It makes the creative process more difficult too, as you sacrifice the innocent, curious, explorative, naturally and effortlessly creative side of yourself for a rigid, dictatorial judge that doesn’t care so much about how you go about it as long as whatever you churn out is good and will be perceived by others as good and will stand for something and set you apart. The whole healing process of making something is lost because of all of this anxiety over the end-result. And that’s bad. Because creativity is a process and if you’re so worried about achieving something, you’re going to suck out all of its enjoyment!
The main thing about art shouldn’t be the end-result. Okay, yes, maybe it’s pretty, maybe it resonates, maybe it touches someone, but if it’s doing all that just from beholding it at a surface level, think about how deeply, soulfully stimulating actually being inside the creative act is.
There’s a misconception that creativity is some sort of genius that only very few people truly possess. Even if this is true, I don’t think it matters, and it definitely shouldn’t make creativity something exclusive as it’s fun for all. It’s good for the soul regardless of outcome. As I see it, the person who has created a poorly cut, smudgy collage that’s messy and dripping with glue but has a huge smile on their face and created this in the spirit of freedom, is an infinitely happier, more wholesome human than the person who has anxiously laboured over a three line poem about the sky because the word order didn’t sit right with their timid and fearful ego. Both creations are ultimately superfluous, so what does it matter? It’s the act of creating that has healing powers, regardless of the actual thing you create.
Art is for you and you alone
I think many people make the mistake of creating because they want to be recognised by others as an interesting, talented human, or because they want to give something to society. I think both of these motives will bring pain. The first because you are putting all the weight on how others perceive you and your work, which will either puff up your ego or tear it down – either way you’re in another’s cage, stifling your soul by creating for recognition.
I love this quote from Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger, which I think sums up what I’m trying to say:
‘An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things, I swear to you. Not in any real sense, anyway.’
Creativity is an expression of your soul, and nothing spoken with your soul is bullshit, regardless of what anyone else’s view of it may be. It’s just for you to reach a deeper level of humanity, and express the questions that seethe and prickle inside of you.
The second motive (of wanting to give something to society) also robs the process of its innate worth and fun. Because creativity isn’t like fixing a boiler or treating sick people; art has no tangible, practical significance to society. All it can do is resonate, give pleasure, and it might not even do that. However, at a personal level, it’s definitely important and valuable. When you create anything, you should create it for yourself, to think things through to yourself, to express things to yourself, to surprise yourself, to have fun for yourself, to grow – never for money, never to exhibit your talent, never to preach something to someone. You don’t create because you have the answers, you create to create; it is an end in itself, at least in my view. Creativity is just your spirit in motion, and by thinking about others’ reactions or the effect it will have on other people, you kill it, instantly. Art is introspective and reflective, and can deepen and extend your human soul, regardless of whether it does the same for others.
Creativity is collective
So I think that a lot of people tend to get very private and personal with their creations, or start viewing themselves as original and separate from others, or get jealous when someone else has a better idea or creates something ‘superior’. It all gets very judgey. Maybe they don’t even take an interest in other peoples’ ideas and creations because it’s all about their creative genius and they don’t give a hoot about other peoples’ human experiences. I think that this attitude has nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with egoism. For creativity is a two-way street: you both contribute and consume. It’s a flowing river that is forever running, extending over generations, that we continually return to and dip into and merge with whenever we read or see or hear something that speaks to our soul. You’ve got to get rid of your ego to properly create, to enjoy it and become part of something bigger than you. This attitude is where the creative magic happens. Art is something collective, a big, muddy, mingling melting pot of everyone’s ideas and the different way different people channel these ideas. It’s free, and it’s for everyone. So don’t be selfish with your ideas and don’t rank yourself or others – at the end of the day, creativity cannot be ranked, because it is so subjective, and its very nature is to be fun and free and soulful, not rigidly judged and controlled. So don’t hold back and be so serious, just enjoy and be open-mined, in both consuming and creating :).