What drives your creativity?
In my previous article, I made a case about why it is important to figure out one’s life philosophies. Today I am going to explore why it is important to have a philosophy behind one’s creativity.
Being creative means being vulnerable. It means exposing your soul to others knowing fully well that others may not be kind to you. And yet you need to bare your soul to fulfill the need to create.
The task of leading a creative life is so hard and taxing that you will feel exhausted. Many times through the journey you feel defeated. There are little rewards for the effort you put in. You are often ridiculed and many times forced to leave to get a real job. Yet you need to keep going. You can’t give up because this thing, this creativity bug, has gone into your blood and now has spread into your being.
Art helps us become better human beings.
We are all complicated. There are elements of both good and bad in us. We all have personal shortcomings. Art provides us the way to bring the best out of us. Austin Kleon writes in Keep Going, “If we don’t believe that we could be a little better in our art than we are in our lives, then what really is the point of art.”
Great artists help people look at their lives with fresh eyes and a sense of possibility. “The purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair,” writes Sarah Manguso.
‘My art is helping me become a better person’ is a philosophy worth adopting because art is supposed to make our lives better. “Leave things better than you found.” is another philosophy worth subscribing to.
But on the same note, your art is not your life.
Those who give precedence to art over life become ‘art monsters.’ They feel justified to abuse, cheat and become addicts. They use their art as a license to become obnoxious persons. A lack of philosophy behind their art makes them go astray. It is important to be a good human being than to be a good artist.
If you are a good human being but no so good artist, it is fine. Your art may not be good but it brings you happiness and it enriches your life. But if you are a good artist but a bad human it is pathetic. It means your art has no purpose. It means your creativity has no philosophy behind it to keep you rooted.
If making art is making your life miserable, walk away, and do something else. Something that makes you and the people around you happy and more alive.
Art takes insane amount of time and effort.
Even though your art gives you happiness and makes you come alive it is a long winding road. You need to create a lot of rubbish to get good.
Van Gogh painted 900 paintings, most of them in the last two years of his life when he was averaging one painting a day.
Emily Dickinson wrote 40 hand-bound volumes of nearly 1,800 poems.
Pablo Picasso produced whopping 13,500 paintings, 100,000 prints, 300 sculptures and ceramics and 34,000 illustrations.
Guy de Maupassant wrote 8 novels and 16 short stories collections consisting of 300 stories in a short period of ten years.
There are times when you feel torn between whether to continue or give up. You wonder whether it makes sense to keep putting an insane amount of hours without any returns. It is at times like these when you need your creativity philosophy the most.
Your philosophy reminds you of the reasons why you are creating the ‘stuff’ you are creating. It provides the gauge that measures what you are creating is any good or not. It becomes your filter to determine what you should be creating.
Art is varied and lucid. You are dabbling in the unknown. You don’t know what to create and from where to find your inspiration.
Not knowing what to create is a dilemma every artist faces every single day.
The bestselling author David Sedaris spends three to four hours a day picking up trash around his village in west London. Then he goes home and writes what he discovered during the day. He is a scavenger. Like many artists, his philosophy is to understand life from the discarded debris. He published his first collection of diaries, titled Theft by Finding which he started writing since age sixteen. It contains overheard bits of dialogues, daily experiences, and his insights.
You don’t need too much to be creative.
All you need is to pay attention. Amy Krouse Rosenthal writes: “For anyone trying to discern what to do with their life, pay attention to what you pay attention to. That’s pretty much all the info you need.” What you choose to pay attention to is the stuff your life and work will be made of.
We pay attention to the things we care about.
“Attention is the most basic form of love,” wrote John Tarrant. When we pay attention to things we care about, it not only provides us with the material for our art, it also helps us fall in love with our life.
This summer I took some time to figure out what is driving my creativity. At age fifty-eight I finally got the opportunity to devote my life to art. I am not going to go astray by not figuring out my philosophies at the start of my creative life. Here are my three philosophies guiding my creativity:
- Create something every day. Anything will do as long as you had fun creating it.
- Make sure your art injects a bit of hope in this world.
- Pay attention. Life reveals its secrets to those paying attention.
What are the philosophies behind your creativity? Have you take time to figure those out.