Sticks and stones
Build your words
When it falls
Bones may break
But the words
Remember Puff The Magic Dragon? Remember how little Jackie Paper abandoned his best friend for “other toys,” and how heartbroken Puff “sadly slipped into his cave?” What a horrible lesson to teach kids! The idea that one outgrows one’s imagination is not only absurd, but cruel, and can even be crippling for certain personalities. Next time you’re in a long lineup, watch what happens… The children immediately evaluate their environment in terms of story possibilities and novel sensations, while the adults generally shuffle around getting bored and/or irritated. Which sounds like more fun to you?
What if we could protect our imaginations the same way we now wear sunscreen to prevent (or at least stave off) wrinkles? I, for one, refuse to compromise what continues to be my most powerful tool in how I interpret and interact with the world. Globalization has exposed us to so many differing cultural worldviews; why not explore the possibility of your own unique construct? Why not make life a little more fun?
Sure, I felt a bit silly cleaning in costume, but only at first. It was incredible how much more bearable (let’s not get carried away here) my chore became after I added the story. Try it for yourself! Your imagination is a whole lot closer to the surface than you’ve been led to believe…
Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kurt Cobain… the list goes on. At twenty seven, the creative brain must make a choice: to embrace its talents, or, through self-destruction and/or social conformity, escape them. The buoyancy of youthful idealism cannot be sustained. Once its intoxication, the powerful high of potential, begins to wane, it’s easy to see how a person could be drawn to the false grandeur of drugs. The latter would become even more of a temptation if the creative individual’s talents had been overindulged at a young age (ie: prodigies). Excess praise, however justified from an outside perspective, would have the dangerous effect of validating a child’s underdeveloped, self-centric understanding of reality. A child who has engaged with the world primarily through intelligent adaptation of her/his talents couldn’t help but develop an exaggerated sense of control over life. Combine this unreality with a lack of learned social empathy, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen.
There’s more to the curse, of course, such as exhaustion, overextension, disillusionment, and THE SHOCK. When creative production has been your currency, it comes as a terrible shock to discover how widely its value can vary on the global exchange. Turns out there are plenty of people who don’t need to “produce” to feel engaged and satisfied with life – lucky bastards! Some folks… wait for it… actually thrive primarily off human interactions. Weird, I know. But then again, I’d be lost without my circle (and my G!). Can you see the conflict?
At twenty-seven, the world comes crashing in. It is no longer possible to ignore alternative worldviews, and even the acknowledgement of differing motivations can be paralyzing to someone whose self-image, if not their entire self-worth (Joplin), has been dependent on narrow self expression. For authentic creative growth at this stage in life, the individual must be willing to integrate these new universalities into her/his work. Successful integration requires a compassionate understanding of these new value systems. But how do you prioritize/balance the demands of these new systems against one’s intrinsic creative independence?
Creativity is by nature self-indulgent, being, in essence, a personality’s violent rebuttal against the known (we’ll leave death for another essay). It doesn’t take long to discover how eager the world is to intrude on our self-direction. So how does one balance these new priorities and demands being made on our energies by the differing worldviews we’ve now gone and validated through successful integration into our creative work? Once you know how much your “No” will hurt someone, how do protect your creative time without feeling like a Jerk?
As someone who can relate (possibly more than I’d like to admit) to the struggles above, all I can say is this: you know who you need to love, so love them with everything they deserve. And, if you wake up to a dismal, snow laced, May Birthday, just grab a piece of office cardstock, some multicoloured highlighters, and go prove to the world that not only did you escape the curse, but… screw it… that not all of us were put on this earth to collect Royal Dalton figurines!
(Note: not that there’s anything wrong with that…um…vocation)
Our Albertan economy is finally feeling the pinch after decades of unchecked growth. Everyone knows someone who has lost a job, or worse. About a month ago on a rush hour city bus, I overheard a conversation between two well dressed business men. One was lamenting over how his high risk investments had virtually vanished.
“Why did you buy into them in the first place?” the other asked.
The man’s answer was spoken matter of fact, with an honesty not often heard on public transit, especially during rush hour…
He shrugged his shoulders, and quickly changed the subject.
The best way to stay motivated during this time of economic flux, is to push forward with our career plans using creativity to set ourselves apart. Make a list of all your soft skills (ie: social, organizational), to add to your more easily resuméd hard skills (ie: Microsoft Office, masonry). Try to make connections between both sets to expand your general skill set. You’ll be surprised to discover what services you can offer as a uniquely experienced human being, rather than simply a _______ graduate with x number of years working in _______ . Now is the time to market yourself creatively, as a whole person, as… You!
Speaking of marketing…
To my dear SavingCymbria readers, and to those of you just breezing by, I am now available for all your Creative Problem Solving needs. Freelance writing and design (fashion commissions, graphic design, & web applications) are my specialties, along with photography and general creativity consulting for both individuals and businesses. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and thank you all for dropping by!
“They were charming eccentrics with marvelous imaginations, and there is so little room these days for wonderful people like that.” – William Norwich, April Vogue 2009
Norwich may have been writing about East Hampton’s two reclusive Edith Beales, circa 1976, but his comment on our culture is remarkably shrewd. When did we stop valuing creativity? Imagination? When it stopped making money, that’s when. So… why did we decide to stop buying?