Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Pursuit of Creativity

The Declaration of Independence declares, among other declarative things, that we all have a right to "the pursuit of happiness." For some of us, that run is harder than it is for others, but we all enter the race. Some of us rush headlong toward bliss; others hang back, helping those who aren't as fast. And some of us trip and fall right out of the starting gate, sprain our ankles, and have to crawl the rest of the way.

Being the first to cross the finish line doesn't matter in this race. It's a long run, so what matters is finding out what kind of runner you are so you can enjoy the trip. Are you a speed racer who won't be happy unless you're whipping past the competition? Or are you a helper, who finds their victory in making sure everyone has a fair chance? Or are you like me, standing in the middle of the track, watching the runners flow around you while you figure out how to immortalize the moment in a painting or story?

Chances are, you won't win that way. But it's the way you're made, and you can't do a thing about it. No matter how hard you try to be a rabbit, you're a dreamy, slowpoke turtle.

But if you stop trying to win the race on the rabbit's terms, chances are you'll be a happy turtle. And happiness is, after all, what we're chasing.

For creative people, finding deep happiness means finding an outlet for the creative impulse that pokes at our subconscious all day long and keeps us up at night. I ignored that urge for years, doing my best to bolt for everyone else's concept of the finish line. Sure, I drew a little, painted a little, wrote a little, but mostly my dabblings didn't seem practical, so I set my foot against the starting block and shoved off for a career in management. I was successful enough, and I earned all the rewards I thought I wanted, but I couldn't help feeling like I was missing something. I interpreted that dissatisfaction as ambition, and pursued promotion and success with more fervor. I didn't realize I was getting further and further away from what I was supposed to do.

But I had to make a living. We all do. And making a living from your creative passion isn't easy to do. I know so many people - artists, musicians, writers - who are trapped in everyday life when all they want to do is spend time in that magical place between reality and imagination where they can lose themselves in the lilt of a song or the sweep of a paintbrush or the magic of a fictional world.

When you're working for a living, taking time to nurture your creativity sometimes feels like self-indulgence. After all, your family needs you. Your work isn't finished. And you've got to get up in the morning and go to your day job. You don't have time to play around with paint or strum your guitar or write stories.

And it's not like those things are your only source of happiness, right? There are magical moments in every life: pushing a child on a swing, wading through a field of wildflowers, laughing with someone you love, or even just curling up on the sofa with a good book. Scattering these moments of simple happiness through your life will keep the crazies at bay. But unless you find that deep, core happiness that satisfies your heart and soul, you'll feel an elusive sense of dissatisfaction that keeps your joy from being quite complete.

Listen to your heart and do what you were menat to do. Talent is a gift, and squandering it has consequences. If you can create things that make others happy - a song that makes them tap their feet, a book that makes them laugh, a painting that lights up a room - it's something you have to do. If your gift is great enough to help people see what matters in the world, it's your duty to do it.

So whether you're just starting the race or standing three feet from the finish line, take some time to express yourself. Write. Quilt. Plant gardens. Paint. Your family nees you, but they need you happy. Your children need your time, but they also need to see how important it is to follow their dreams. And your day-to-day work, whatever it is, will be better and infinitely more satisfying if you use it to earn time to enjoy the race in the way that's best for you.

15 comments:

  1. Here, here, Joanne! I salute you and totally agree with you. I have to work the day job and I love working with my coworkers, but the truth of the matter is writing makes me feel "self-actualized." Creating stories gives me real purpose in life. It gives me joy. And I hope it gives my readers a chance of escapism and some fun, too. As well as teaching writing, and making cute little bears gives me pleasure! :) Excellent post!!!

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  2. Great post, Joanne! I love how you discussed that people need you, but they need you to be happy so you can in turn give them what they need. Really insightful, and a lovely post to think about all day!

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  3. Terry, self-actualization, purpose and joy define it pretty well for me, too. I also think readers can feel the joy you take in your writing through your words and your voice, and it makes it fun for them, too. It's all good!

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  4. Thanks, Cheryl! And Danielle, thanks for the compliment. I worried I sound a little "full of myself," but I see so many people who stifle their creativity, and it makes them so unhappy - so I had to give a lecture:)

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  5. And hey, Terry, do you sell your bears? Just curious...they're awfully cute, and I know someone who would love one.

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  6. This really struck a chord, Joanne. I'm not sure if I pursue creativity or if it pursues me, but I definitely need the outlet of self-expression. Great post!

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  7. Excellent, Joanne! Love this post. Happiness is indeed found in so many places and ways. People can go through life without ever discovering their core passion, as you put it, and if they know no different and have plenty of happy moments in between then I suppose they never lack. But how joyous it is to discover one's core passion! I feel so blessed that I have discovered 2 great passions in my life: nursing sick babies and writing. Praise the Maker for allowing me the opportunity to nourish and pursue each one.

    I think I am a cross between the turtle and the hare! I have my hare-ish moments and then those times when I just want to veg and absorb the world. Lovely visual, so thanks!

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  8. I absolutely agree with everything you wrote! And you said it so well that after I had finished reading it--I wished I had written it!
    Amelia

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  9. Olivia, you're right - sometimes creativity turns around and chases you right back! Good point!

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  10. Sharon, bless you for the babies AND the books. You give a lot to the world! I can't imagine more rewarding work than your nursing, but it must be hard sometimes. Good thing you get to hang out with Mr. Darcy when you're done!

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  11. A wonderful post, Joanne!

    For me, my race and pace hasn't ever been on the rabbit's terms. I'm steadily moving forward, crawling over the obstacles in the way--work, family, helping others. I love all those things, but I can never lose sight of my goal. Otherwise that deep core of *magic* won't be tapped and the consequence for me? That nagging feeling of discontent in an otherwise contented life.

    Like Terry said, writing and creating stories gives me a feeling of joy and I love escaping into the worlds I create.

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  12. Amelia ***thanks!*** That means a lot coming from you!!!

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  13. Sia, thanks for commenting! I'm preaching to the choir here in a way - if you're reading or contributing to this kind of blog, chances are you've found your creative bliss! But we still need to be reminded sometimes of how important it is, and how lucky we are:)

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  14. Thanks for your blog today. I totally agree and I really hope that even though there are times that I spend writing instead of being with my kids, they will in the end benefit from watching mommy pursue her dreams. I hope they will be able to do the same with their dreams! It sure looks like you have been an inspiration to your kids!

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