Creativity And Its Pleasures

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Image by Gustave Cariot

“ I thrive on the eccentricity of my imagination. Outwardly, I’m conventional and boring. Inwardly, I can’t keep the wild thoughts from flowing. That’s my peace. In that wildness lies my creative and comforting stillness.” ~ Thomas Moore

“ But creating also means destroying the status quo of ones environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist)… in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.” — Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety

Creativity is a complex process. Everything you create is a kind of self portrait. I like the idea that it involves as much destruction as it does fashioning something new. That’s where anxiety enters the picture, for me at least.

But it seems that the more willing you are to destroy, the deeper you can go into making something original. In my case at least, initial attempts are not to be treated as precious possessions, as pretty as they might be. The more you hang onto your beginning efforts, the more superficial the end result is likely to be. I need to marinate, to cook the power and meaning of the piece so that it finds its focus and meaning.

Sometimes that means working a long time with the energies released by the theme. It’s interesting that so much of this process goes on under the surface. Thomas Moore says that he’s a boring person in the flesh, but that’s how most introverts appear to the world. They are quiet because they are preoccupied by a highly active interior life. That energy, that intelligence, goes into some kind of creative work which can organize and communicate itself to the world in a coherent fashion.

That creation speaks from the character and soul of the creator to anyone able to hear it. If it’s muddled, it is incomprehensible. If it is passionate and well crafted it has an enhanced and amplified voice. The artist’s job is to create in spite of anxieties, inhibitions and challenges of all kinds. Those who dedicate themselves to this process are heros, even if they never receive recognition, even if they never develop a high mastery of their craft.

Yesterday I ran across one of those little tests you see on Facebook sometimes, and in a curious mood I took it to find out what my life path should be, or what the test thought it should be. It only asked one question, so there was a small entry fee. I clicked on “male” and the answer came back — ”priest.”

I snorted and moved on. But then I started to reflect. Not every priest is a man with a turned around collar. I advocate art and creativity almost as a path to salvation, I admit.

I’m not a religionist, but if that’s my priestliness, then ok, I accept it. I believe in the saving power of art, of inspiration, of creativity, of beauty, and of ideas well expressed.

Frankly, I don’t see how people forego the life of making beautiful things. I don’t understand why there are so many people who don’t care about the deeper meaning of existence.

I think the impulse to create comes out of questions more than answers. I know the artist’s job is to look and look again. I’ve lived that life because I can’t adjust to any other, but it puzzles me that so many people prefer the surface of things. We are surrounded by that life and it never stops demanding that we come out with our hands up.

Who’s making that decision? In my case, it’s the renegade artist/priest. You’ll have to come in and get me, coppers! (A little bow to Jimmy Cagney).

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