Creativity is another name for spirit, another name for human. You can ignite your budding creative genius right now wherever you are.
What do you love doing? What would you do even if no one was making you do it? What do you do while you procrastinate? What brings you ridiculous amounts of pleasure? What would you do if you didn’t have to earn a living? The answers to these questions are often your treasure, your secret creative revolutionary soul.
In the US, we decide early that everyone must be innately talented and we siphon kids off into classes, cliques or clubs of folks who “can” do that thing. Our proclivities are pre-determined, like the hand of fate comes from the sky and pronounces us one way. All else falls away and you must do that forevermore. You must become the best, because you will compete fiercely with other talented people. You must Win the Contest and Live Up to Your Potential. Money could be at stake or your survival. It’s why we can’t stop watching the Hunger Games; we know it’s real.
If your talent is invisible or undervalued, you are shunted into another place. This place is a limbo of waiting for some glittering skillset to emerge or a lifetime of codependent support of “talented people” with your unlucky skilless existence. If you don’t know your gifts or you aren’t yet convinced that you have a purpose, this is the beginning of your suspended animation.
You don’t have to stay there.
I was told that I was terrible at sports, that I should not sing. I talked too much and I would never understand math. I was told that I had no grasp of writing.
Now, I giggle when I am running, hiking, dancing, singing, teaching, public speaking, doing the accounting for my business and the budget for my non profit and writing furiously, always writing. Thank goodness I didn’t always listen to what I was told.
How do we recover from What We Were Told We Are?
1. See yourself now. Perhaps you color outside the lines. You hear music underneath things or see possibilities that don’t exist yet. You don’t have what they have and they don’t understand you. Maybe you want something they have never even heard of. Something delicious, mystical, queer, outrageous, simple. If you were ever a magical child who never received the support to become yourself, see yourself now. You are the most sacred darling and your need to play and create is one of the most divine things about you. Rest assured, you are not entitled to be the best at everything but you have the absolute right to take a holy risk and begin. It is never too late to begin doing something that you have always wanted to try. It is not bad to do it awkwardly, to fall on your face and giggle. Begin.
2. Be bold and original. Give voice to what you love and what you know. They may try to kill your creative genius so you will buy more stuff. They might try to convince you that you are small and meaningless. They might try to make you so afraid of losing what little you have that you grow insecure or defensive. They might make you fantasize about hurting them back. They might laugh at how you look. They might pick you last for the team. They might do things that don’t kill you but chafe in small ways, things that leave red raw patches on your heart. They may tell you to be quiet and drab. Or they might tell you to be fabulous and free but then shoot down all your best, most audacious ideas. They might try to sell you their definition, hairstyle and costume for fabulous. You know better on the inside. It’s never to late to create a version of yourself as if you had already won, as if you were the essence of your own rare shining soul. Start it up.
3. Keep practicing. They might tell you that everyone wants to be on top and financial success is the measure of your worth. They might threaten you and try to take your voice from you and tell you that you will never be good enough to reach people. You might believe that no one will ever want what you have to give. Give yourself time. Roy L. Smith says “Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.” You must find your way back to that fire. Even with rejection, especially with rejection.
Consider this essay an assault on the way that introducing discipline to our creative joy becomes a word for punishment instead of unfolding. Commitment is sexy. Just like time lapsed photography swipes my breath every time, so it is with talent and what I love. It is up to me to make time. If I don’t spend time inside that refining fire because I am afraid of being not enough, I am still living stories that don’t fit me, definitions that crunch me into a box that pinches on every side.
Writing saved me; every journal connected me to something beyond my own smashed, twisted and starving world of ad hominen attacks and the talons of other people. Noticing, remembering and recording became my practice, no matter what they said I couldn’t do, no matter what they told me I was. Even when they told me I was terrible at it, I came back to the fire until I knew that had changed.
When you are rejected, it is another opportunity to fall in love with that alchemical fire that will never leave you the way it found you. The fire you can’t help but reach towards even though it could burn down everything you think you know.
Creativity is another name for revolution. I want to think creatively about how we make room for each other’s unique cultures, dignity and needs, how we clean up the water and how we get to visit each other without fossil fuels. It is imperative that we live more creatively all the time. We will never find liberation without imagination. I want innovative solutions to choices that matter, not about fonts and what I Like on Facebook and software and television. Sometimes all the choices become so superficial that we can’t even tell how surface they are because we are so overwhelmed by the sheer multitude of them.
When I am drowning in meaningless choices, I can’t reach the shore where my art and my inspiration live. I have to look around and see where my creative expression and imagination are waiting for me, tapping their fingers and curled up, ready to pounce and wrestle me to the ground and smother me with kisses. All I have to do is give them time and attention, love and fire.