My title for this post was to be Aspiring Human, but I’ve just found “Let that creativity out, missus!!” as a comment, from a very dear friend*, on yesterday’s Blipfoto journal entry which seems just as apt and has the added benefit of being slightly catchier.
Both titles get to the heart of how I feel about the intertwining of life and creativity.
Let me explain…
Rewind to 2009 when I rediscovered the achingly wonderful way writing made me feel, signed up for Open University courses, and joined Twitter in my quest to find ways to immerse myself in “writeriness”. I followed as many people as I could who had the words “writer” or “author” in their Twitter bios or usernames. I looked for writing hashtags, writing quotes and mantras, writing retweets, writing blogs. I wanted to be in Writer World, I wanted to talk Writer, be Writer, think Writer, live Writer. I wanted to share writing chat, get a feel for life as a writer and completely overturn the “something’s missing from my life” non-writery existence I had lived previously.
Now, that’s all well and good and has probably worked for many, but what I found was the language in Writer World made assumptions about a way to be a writer. I felt as if until one was published or successful in some other conventional way, one had to call oneself “Aspiring Writer”, and – importantly – always be striving for something. There is always a feeling of needing to make it, to get somewhere – be that winning competitions, awards, publication, or employment of some kind. However good anything I wrote might be, however Writery I felt – even if I wrote for hours every day and some days did very little else, I still felt the pressure to conform to a load of assumptions. I could post things on my blog, I could take part in things, I could have tens – sometimes hundreds – of people reading what I had written, but I would always be “up-and-coming” or “aspiring”. Not even the tag “amateur writer” would be applied to me. Always part way there until someone slapped a success sticker on me.
In the same way that society now expects singers and musicians to strive for fame, recording contracts and TV appearances to become “performers” of what they do to endorse it in some way, writer seems to have come to mean
(I’ve just remembered the person who inspired the title of this blogpost doesn’t like bullet points!**)
Being a writer didn’t mean writing a novel in the past. Writers wrote – simple as that. And the novel is a relatively new concept that some writers probably shouldn’t even be striving to achieve. There was once no such thing as a novel. That’s just one area. There are so many other ways to be a writer.
And what happened to the definition of being “successful” at something simply meaning “to do it well”?
What happened to talents being enjoyed for what they are? Where is the stress-free enjoyment of merely creating?
What I found for myself by immersing myself in writer language was that I gradually began to realise that it was not the talk around writing and writers and publication that I am interested in: it is what people write about that interests me most. I observe society and people, I am affected by what I witness, and I see myself as someone who organises concepts and thoughts into words, and a person who makes up stories, and not as someone who is striving for something. It’s the human part of people that I like best and that doesn’t come from only talking to other writers about writing. I now have a new, smaller Twitter account where I follow people because I like what they say about the world. My favourite people are often good human beings first and foremost. To be successful and/or talented is never enough for me. It shouldn’t be enough for anyone in my opinion.
Of course there are writers who write to get published, who write to win competitions, who are good at these things, enjoy these things and succeed at these things – I know many of them and admire not only their writing but I admire them as people. Some I consider good friends, so I am not writing this to take that away from them or to belittle their struggles or hard work. I also know people who write to earn money to put food on the table and so of course that is incredibly important and worthwhile, not to mention jolly successful if they manage to achieve that even in some small way.
No. I am simply trying to remind myself and anyone who reads this that the raw creativity contained in the whole of the art world – in paintings, drawings, sculptures, poems, musical compositions and performances, stories, scribblings on the backs of envelopes, blogposts, theories, low-budget films and whole host of other areas of creativity are what make a person an artist, a writer, a creative person, or whatever. Assuming that “making it” or being successful in any field requires some kind of conventional quantifying or recognition can be crippling to the person who puts themselves in that mindset, not to mention insulting to those who do not. Why should we be striving to fit our art into someone else’s narrow definition of what is good or successful anyway?
It is the actual process of being creative that is so important to me. The choosing and arranging of words or music to form a picture or an emotion: the releasing of musical notes from my voice, or from my flute, or through my fingertips; the selecting and joining together of words to experiment with ways of pinning down imaginative thoughts. I see this too in the sketches our daughter draws for no purpose on earth other than she feels the need to do it. I take photographs because I like to see a scene framed or the way the light takes a different picture from the picture my eyes took. Those things – all those things are worth something. There’s no need to put a price on everything, a deal on everything, seek employment or other monetary recognition in something merely because we enjoy it. I don’t play music or sing in order to perform for others, I don’t take photos in order to put them in an exhibition, and I’ve realised I don’t have to write with a novel in mind.
People are employed as musicians, as writers, as artists, sure. But that’s only one way. It’s not the way to call yourself any of those things or to sanction what you do. Besides, I think we should strive to be the best, caring, thoughtful human being we can first and foremost and that will automatically put a stamp of authority on what we do. After all it is the human condition that makes art accessible and emotive.
Of course there are creative plans – projects with an end goal: things with a purpose, which must be finished. But that’s not the definition of creativity, or creative success.
If we become appreciated for what we do, that’s not when we made it. We made it when we were being creative.
Do you want to know what’s annoyed the crap out of me, whilst writing this blog post? It’s that an image search for “creativity” I did to find a picture to go with what I’m writing, threw up so many pictures of business people in suits – as if to say creativity is about business ideas. And you’d be amazed how frequently the words “leader”, “innovation”, “teamwork”, “target” and “success” came up. What?! Why?!
It’s not that I don’t think art should have a purpose. I just think its purpose has become confused and a lot of people are scared away from writing because they assume it has to go somewhere, but it doesn’t have to go anywhere. It’s incredibly sad that many people are put off creative arts because they don’t see how they could be successful at them. Expectation can be disabling – I should know, but writing is a process all in itself, and a damned fine one too – just like all the other arts.
*Thank you, Sarah