attack_laurel (attack_laurel) wrote,

Creative License to Do What You Want

It's Ash Wednesday, and I'm atoning for my sins.


Well, okay, not my sins.  I really, really need to learn not to go wandering around the web when I'm feeling fragile - the proliferation of excruciatingly bad 16th century historical research and costuming hurts.  Honestly, I know this stuff happened a long time ago, but (for example), there was a distinct lack of Puritans at Jamestown, and a quick perusal of any number of excellent museum documents available online would make that abundantly clear.  It's one thing to be hypothesizing about something historians disagree on, but getting rudimentary history wrong is sheer fucking laziness.

Why was I noodling around randomly?  I'm a dilletante.  I get ideas in my head, go looking for random inspiration/research, and waste endless happy hours making something that has no relation to anything I usually do, just because I thought it was neat.

(Pictures this evening of the current thing.)

All my life I've been fed the idea that I need to settle down to one thing - that, and "pace yourself".  I am good at neither.  I have been blessed with the ability to do several things with a modicum of skill, and dropping most of them in favour of concentrating on one seems like a waste. 

(This is also where the "pace yourself" thing comes in - it gets done in the time it takes to get done, dammit.  I'm not going to go slow just because someone else thinks it should take longer.  This attitude used to drive my art professors mad.  Personally, while I absolutely feel that one should take all the time one needs to do something well, the amount of time spent on something is not neccessarily an indicator of quality - either way.  Taking longer on something for the sake of taking longer is, well, silly.)

(Mind you, more than once, I've had the "quality vs. quantity" discussion with someone.  Doing something in the shortest time is also not a good benchmark for quality.)

But back to the creative side of things.  Creativity isn't just about making things, it's about possibilities, both large and small.  Sure, your first left-handed widget holder is a little wobbly, but your next one might be the one that changes the world.  Or, you've found that macrameing a widget press is the ideal way for you to relax.  For instance, one of the things I like is writing music.  I don't do it often - I've writtten maybe 15 songs of any quality ("bad" is a quality, right?) over the past 20 years - but I like doing it when inspiration strikes.  I'm never going to be prolific enough to make any money off it, but that doesn't stop me daydreaming about  winning an Oscar for "Best Original Song".  In the meantime, it makes me happy to discover that I can write lyrics better than I thought. 

Because I don't have any specific reason to write music, I can daydream and make myself happy at the same time.  The door remains open - me winning an Oscar has about the same level of probability as finding a wardrobe that leads to Narnia, but who cares?  Writing is its own reward as well. 

(Still looking for that wardrobe, though.  Just because I haven't found it yet, doesn't mean it isn't out there.)

I think society makes a mistake when it demands that activities have a "purpose".  Crafting has left the realm of amusing downtime filler, and become a "business opportunity", and I think we're actually poorer as a result. 

For me, it puts undue stress on my creativity to be told I should put all of it to commercial use.  I don't want to make money at everything I do, sometimes I just want to create for the hell of it.  Years ago, I realized I didn't even like competitions, so now I just make costumes for my own amusement.  I like writing the occasional song.  I enjoy writing essays without any restrictions on subject - whatever comes into my mind on any given day.  I like painting random things.  I like not having a purpose.  Creativity does not have to make money to have value.

My ex-husband never understood this.  To him, if it wasn't bringing in cash, it was worthless.  Sadly, I have run into a surprisingly large number of people who feel the same way - "what use is art?" they scoff.

Well, actually, it's very useful.  The act of Art (with the big A) is something that has been neccessary for all cultures at all times, though not always consciously made.  I think that it is in the bliss of making that we come closest to our unconscious selves, whether it's cupcakes or a new dance move.  Art needs to be without purpose sometimes, because the rest of our life is so very purpose-driven.  We have jobs so we can earn money to pay for our food and shelter - jobs that are not required to be fulfilling.  In fact, jobs which are emotionally fulfilling are frequently taken less seriously than "real" (i.e., soul-suckingly boring) jobs.  We maintain our health (sort of), our families, our friendships.  We spend most of our time responding to the expectations of everyone around us - we are social animals, and our society requires certain things of us.

It's only in purposeless creation that we are free to be only what we want - there is no job description, no expectation, and we're allowed to be completely selfish.  If we want to make a macrame owl on a stick, laminate a jigsaw puzzle, or build a tree house (or a sofa fort), it is something we do purely for our own pleasure.  And I think it is essential to our emotional and spiritual well-being that we set aside this creative time just for us.  This doesn't mean you can't do something with what you create - but as soon as someone else starts telling you what you "should" do with your creativity, no matter how well-meant, hide.

The reason for this is that as soon as you start listening to what someone else is telling you to make, you're making it for them, not for you.  You may be absolutely fabulous at making baby blankets, but if someone tells you you "should" be making matching sets of booties to go with the blankets, and you start doing that, you may be awesome at making booties too, but it's not what you wanted to do, it's what they want you to do.  A little bit of your inner self is squashed every time someone imposes their vision on your creativity.

And people, bless their hearts, cannot help themselves.  They shouldn't, but they try to push and pull the stuff they like into something that works for them - usually with the absolute best of intentions, too, so you can't get mad at them.  This is fine for work, team building excercises, and collaborations, but it isn't as good when it's someone else's hobby.  Each person's vision for their creativity should be respected; there is no reason to tell someone what to do with their inner vision.  It's not like working for a Laurel, or a promotion, or a job; there are no specs or requirements for hobbies, that's why they're so much fun. 

What people may not realize is that as soon as they start telling someone else what they'd like to see them do with their creativity, they're making that creative experience into a job, not a joy.  For the love of all that is personal and precious, don't do this to anyone

I have my own issues, admittedly, but as soon as someone tells me "you should..." I shut down and don't want to do that thing any more.  The only person who can say that to me is Bob, who is wise and understands me better than anyone else. I love feedback, don't get me wrong - and I'll continue to post the results of my rambling approach to life here.  Some things may be developed more, some may stay purely personal.  Some of my work may not be able to go any further - artistically, it is complete within itself.   Sometimes, all I want to do is dabble.  Because dilletantism is all about the dabbling.

There's too much great stuff out there to limit oneself.  Be creative.
Tags: blah blah blah, boundaries, creativity, expectations
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