I went looking in the library for a book. It wasn’t on the shelf, but I looked around at the books that were shelved nearby, and picked a few to read. One that caught my eye was Fearless Creating by Eric Maisel. I think a lot about the difficulties associated with being creative, and thought he might have some ideas on how to help people overcome their fears of being creative. He actually does have a number of good ideas and exercises, but there is an undercurrent that is really bugging me: he talks about the wildness of creativity, and how people need to hang on to their wildness to stay creative.
On the one hand, I agree that there are people who are driven to create, who channel their energy and wild nature into their art, and who would probably be a little wild even if they weren’t artists. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who are comfortable within society, who appreciate their blessings and want to help other people, who are also creative. Their art might not feel wild, but it is no less art.
I remember reading a biography of some painter when I was a kid. This artist was most definitely wild, barely fitting into society, with bad manners and hurtful interpersonal interactions and self-destructive behavior. Somehow it was ok because he was a brilliant artist also. This isn’t the life I would wish for my child, to be on the edges of society and channeling sociopathic behavior into art. I want him to have the things we all want – love, connection, work we feel matters, and also a creative outlet for his great imagination.
When I was in college I worked on the literary magazine with the slogan “Because Poetry Hurts.” It seemed like all artists suffered. It was what made them good artists. I don’t think that’s necessarily a given any more. Maybe great suffering does lead to great art. But maybe great love, or compassion, or acceptance, or joy, could also lead to great art.
With all the blocks to creativity in our everyday life, adding in the expectation that artists must be wild, or must suffer, or must be unable to manage life in some way into the mix is just not helpful. It’s a societal misconception which I hope is becoming less common. It makes it that much harder for people who don’t think of themselves as creative types to venture into that strange world of creativity, if they think they might be called on to do things they don’t want to do or feel things they will find painful.
Maybe, at the end of the day, creativity feels scary because it does feel a little wild, a little out of my control. Dr. Maisel certainly does address a number of situations that can block people from completing their art, and has good suggestions for continuing to move forward. I just hope that everyone, from the most mild to the most wild, will feel comfortable trying something creative. Even if it’s not something that would get you accepted into a graduate degree in fine art, it’s still valuable just as it is, in whatever shape it arrives in this world.