Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Creativity: Part 1

It's 2009 and I am thinking about the word 'creative'. Over the holidays, I was speaking to, let's call her Jane, about a mutual friend who had just finished his second book and about the fact that I had started this blog, when she almost wistfully commented how she was so lucky to have such creative friends. That took me by surprise as she is a whip smart successful (and gorgeously put together) lawyer and I, well, am not (though I most certainly will play one on TV one of these days). We creatives are always struggling, striving towards that elusive 'big dream', lamenting about the road blocks and our lack of 'breaks'. Wouldn't she instead be annoyed by our heightened prattle and think of us as perpetual Peter Pans, refusing to face the realities of being an adult? I mean, I know quite a few people who quietly think that about both me (myself included sometimes) and my peers who have not reached mainstream success after a lengthy period of pursuit, regardless of how entertaining we might be at dinner parties. Did Jane really think that being able to come up with (in our friend's case published) stories and the like, regardless of the lack of steady income and our inclination towards the unconventional, was impressive? And more importantly, (to my little insecure artist self) she thought I was equally creative as someone who had written two books?!

That conundrum quietly followed me around for the rest of the holidays until it was jolted to attention when a few guests at an event I attended revealed their secret dreams to me. Don't laugh, I'm being serious. These adults (all had spouses and children) confided what they had really wanted to be: a musician, a novelist, a musical theatre actress. These dreams were very alive within them; sometimes it was a dream never pursued and regrettably shelved (like a pair of jeans one size too small that you keep in your closet and look at), and other times something they still hoped to pursue. In all cases they looked at their current life as not fully complete and viewed their job not only as a means to an end but as one of them stated, something they honestly didn't like it. I was floored. I felt almost honored that they would confide in me and think that they could gleam a little solace from my experiences and even be potentially motivated to make a few changes in their lives (I'm one for encouraging big dreams). I also felt a tinge of guilt as even just having the chance to pursue a dream seemed such a blessing coming out of this experience. Why me and not them? Was it luck, blessed circumstances or just sheer drive that I purposefully still walk down this path? (That sounds oddly religious and I'm not, but you get the picture). Probably a combination of all three, or at least the latter two. But still...hmmm.

These experiences prompted quite a bit of food for thought, but the topic I wanted to explore in this two dimensional forum is this: Who is truly creative and what do they do? To start this exploration one has to look at what the word 'creative' really means? When I googled it's definition my screen spit back the wordnet.princeton definition of 'having the ability or power to create'. 'Creativity' is defined as a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts. And what is the definition of the root verb 'create'? To bring into existence. This word certainly resonates heavily. It leads us away from the flowery connotations of artists and free thinkers to the realm of religion, of science, to the eternal question of 'why are we here?' and what did we do before email? When something is created, it simply did not exist before. Someone had to challenge the status quo, imagine something that exists far beyond the already established boundaries and then turn it into a physical (or digital) reality. Bill Gates is creative. Albert Einstein was creative. Alexander Fleming and Dr. Fazlur Khan (former created penicillin and latter was structural engineer /father of the skyscraper) were creative. In these instances, the word creative can be interchanged with 'genius' and 'visionary'. But they are ultimately creatives, they just created things of monumental significance. Then there are all the creative artist types, Da Vinci, Joseph Campbell, Bono, Alan Moore, I could spend weeks just researching artists who have created groundbreaking works of fiction, music, film, etc that have changed society's paradigm. These are the people that directly influence me on a conscious level daily but I subconsciously interact with the works of 'non-artistic' creative types every moment of the someone invented the filter in the fridge that purified the water that I am now sipping.

I have three (unfinished as I'm a Gemini procrastinator) writing projects, this blog, and a web series to promote on the go. I also audition for commercial and print work. There was a time when I just had a day job career coaching actors and an active film and tv auditioning career. As the auditioning seemed to be going really well, so well that it looked like it would ultimately lead to actual steady acting work, I quit my day job. I had been pouring all my energy coming up with great ideas on how to help my clients with their acting careers but was barely getting paid for it so I decided to quit and focus all this energy and time on myself. This was a mistake (though not a BIG mistake as it wasn't the best of work environments). This period of my life was pretty miserable. I would get auditions, have a moment of excitement, then work on the characters, memorize the lines, stress about the lack of time I had, feel nervous about not having coached, worry that my outfit wouldn't look good on camera, try to make these casting directors, producers and directors like me in a matter of minutes when I had just heard them chumming it up with the girl who had gone in before me because they had worked on a film together last year in New Mexico, throw my soul out onto the floor (while cheating my eyes up), stomp around on it and then say thank you. And THEN have NOTHING to show for it! I always wondered why my old acting coach said that you must always be acting, directing and writing- auditioning is not acting. It is Chinese Water Torture. Oh and I would also go to the gym. So I wasn't being very creative. I wasn't creating anything except stress and fleeting characters in the night that had to dissolve as soon as I left the casting room or risk losing my sanity.

Looking back, I was attempting to be a working artist. Beyond that, I wasn't actually acting except in auditions and in class so I had nothing tangible to show for it. I would try to put up plays, search out obscure works, innovative playwrights, rally my classmates to see who wanted to collaborate, but for some reason nothing ever came together. I like quick fixes and pulling together a play proposal that might get approved, only to wait for nine months to stage it seemed and still seems so archaic (hence why I love my digital community). But basically, I hadn't figured out how to use my creativity. My voice. How did I learn to? How might you? Will there actually be hyper links that you can click on in case you get bored? Well that's to back soon.

All Things T

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