“Creativity” seems to be the word of the hour — explored, lauded, explained and overused by countless media hawks looking for killer content, it has sparked a buzz we currently hear all over the Internet and across a plethora of printed media. We’ve already touted the insights found in the dedicated Ideas Issue of The Atlantic, and have had more thoughts provoked by the concept-surfing contributions of Seth Godin*, science industry theory from Ars Technica, a sort of doomsday warning from The New Yorker and an enlightening book review from Brain Pickings. (Hope the book is as good as Maria Popova’s review!) But overused or not, the creative force still means so much more than its Webster.
After a recent conversation with a new friend named Penelope, I gained a new layer of consciousness regarding this drive to provoke, build and inspire. This lovely woman is a psychiatrist, and we found ourselves thrown together by a mutual friend, in a room awash with artistic people and vibrating with jovial energy. We talked about therapy for artists in need, and it was refreshing (and no small relief) to hear from a mental health professional about how important it is to find someone who understands not only how artists are different, but that they truly do differ from those who are more linear-minded.
What Penelope encapsulated for me was this: for many people, an act or exercise of creativity can be healing, due to the way it shakes things up and allows new connections to be formed. For those of us whose lives are driven largely by creative pursuits, this fills many gaps, from why we do it, to why people have certain responses to us, to why we are integral cogs in the societal machine.
Being creative isn’t just an act of fun, or selfishness, or even escape. It is also self-preservation, and a radical act that can serve as societal glue. We challenge, we inspire, we provoke, we dare people to think beyond themselves, beyond their daily grind… and more important, beyond their daily mind. It is both privilege and sacred duty. But it is also a simultaneously joyful and solemn reminder that we and our work are part of a much larger world.
How does your work reach beyond your own experience? How can it help others reach beyond theirs?
Go out and get a copy of Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception right now and read or listen to it at least once. Seriously — get up and do it now. It’s available in hardcover, paperback, for Kindle and Audible and more. It’s even at the library. Every artist (this means you) should spend some serious time with this 2012 gem.