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Monthly Archives: April 2012

“Unlocking creativity”

Guilt paralysis

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.

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“Well, we were just engaged two weeks ago, so we’re just looking at every detail here, you know?  We want to make sure that we get it right.”

“Right, right, I know what you mean.  I’m watching this and thinking, ‘Well, when I do this there’ll be no ceremony, no speeches’…too many things can go wrong!”

“EXACTLY, you get it. Obviously we need to make sure that the bridesmaids are poised. This one’s been drinking all day, you can just tell, she can barely get her words out. No one wants to hear that.”

I hate weddings. Reluctantly in love, but nevertheless eager to tail my dearest wherever he’ll take me, I’m sitting next to a walk-in closet case and his tightly curled beard at some Protestant country club affair. Listen, the last thing I’m trying to hear is a pile of congratulatory wedding speech aphorisms, but even I know to shut it, or at least revert to signs and whispers, during the speeches. It’s the discordant sound of voices vying with each other to be heard that bothers me more than the fact that they’re stopping me from hearing Daddy’s ode to daughter.

As the speeches wrap, they try to speak to me again. It’s funny how some people, having ceded themselves to a coupled identity, assume that any other loving pair has something inherently in common with them. Too wordy.  What I mean to say is: What gives this girl the idea that I want to talk to her about her wedding to her fiance who, I might add, could easily and legally marry a dude in DC?  I’m skeptical of his intelligence. I don’t know.  Maybe she’s desperate.

It’s self-centered of me, but I always assume that the more a pair worries about presentation, the more they worry about their collective identity, then the less they’re really enjoying each other. He supported my hypothesis, too, when he told me that they wanted to share a room with his family, until they realized the suite was too crowded. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but a larger bill could scarcely come between me and hotel privacy (OK, sex), that precious commodity. All of the new surfaces, the sheets you won’t have to clean later, endless towels, pristine shower, the guarantee of not being caught. If the novelty and the glory of hotel sex has worn off for you, I’m dreadful sorry. And, if you’re willing to take a break from fucking long enough to plan an intricate wedding, then you either have far more self control than I do, or you just aren’t doing it right.