Myths of creativity, what you should do in your twenties, urging youth to create early and often.
There are so many social media gurus sharing trite aphorisms as though they were hard-fought wisdom. I’ve seen friends recycle their words on Facebook and on Twitter. Embrace your day and what it brings you, then ask for more the next day. Dance free of your inhibitions, be the you that is most you. Don’t listen to naysayers; Follow your heart and spring toward the future. Et cetera.
I guess I’d hoped we’d be past self-help by now. All of these phrases assume that each of us can see the light from where we sit. Is what you want in view? A friend recently told me that she can’t wait to make her final career change. She’s twenty-five, but she is set to settle. Not that I can blame her. We are taught from an early age that once you find it, your chosen career will be fulfilling and, if you’d like, creative. We. The ones who were taught that through education one can be free, the ones who succeed, the ones who try. You’ll get what you deserve. After 2008 and the job market decimation it brought, fewer buy that. Confidence shattered for years until the recent resurgence of “sieze your life” evangelism.
But whom does that creativity serve? The ones I knowing buying in to this wisdom run start-ups or are freelancers. Though the work ethos might be the same, self-employed or bust, the outcome is very different. Is a young, highly-trained (or self-taught) programmer really on par with a freelance graphic designer fresh from a lower tier art school? Well, no, of course not. But this new language of creativity dare not warn anyone that, perhaps, his talent might be subpar. Don’t listen to critics, this language urges. Maybe a start-up founder knows when her project isn’t working. The money just won’t be there. But for a struggling artist, I think these words are toxic. They encourage uncompromising creation, an unwavering aesthetic impenetrable to critique. Anyone who’s worked with clients (or a boss of any type, for that matter) knows how difficult standing one’s ground can be. Kudos to those who do not collapse under criticism, I say. But those who do not even consider it, those who categorize it as negativity and do not engage with it? Well, sometimes you’re wrong, and it’s right to compromise.
If you’ve been following enough dispensers of internet-age, creativity-liberating Tweeps, you might start to feel guilty if you’re not as successful as they are. You might not think that the successful ones you try to emulate are actually just barely eking out an existence, and that they’re typing their collected (not earned) wisdom from a cafe with free internet, or perhaps a parent’s house. You might, actually, start to lose confidence in yourself as you begin to feel that you pale in comparison to the liberated, elite creatives who seem to dominate the internet. Worst of all, you could easily forget that every person you know who is solely employed in their creative pursuit of choice is poor, overworked, and envious of your health insurance. That said, they’re probably happier than you are. You shouldn’t be jealous. Envy is a toxin to which their is no antidote.