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)