Thursday, September 15, 2011

Q is for Quitting

Do you remember grade school? The joy, the fear, the weird smell, the time when you peed your pants in the school library because you didn't want anybody else to steal your stack of books (which could be the cause of the aforementioned odor problem ... hmmm)

The one thing I will never forget (besides my little library incident) was art class. My teacher was Mrs. H. She was mean. She told me my drawings looked "stunted" and my pottery was "squatty" when I was seven. SEVEN. She yelled at me for leaving paintbrushes in the water too long. I got in trouble for accidentally cutting one of my projects into a bazillion tiny pieces ... okay, maybe that was on purpose. But what really pushed her angry button was that fact that I was addicted to the color brown. I chose brown crayons. I scribbled with brown markers. I even mixed together all the paint in my little watercolor palette to make 12 different hues of ... brown. What can I say? I was a kid who liked brown. Mrs. H just didn't understand.

Brown, brown, brown ... woo!!!
Somewhere between fourth and fifth grade, Mrs. H's soul-crushing, gut punching, just plain evil constructive criticism got to me. I started trying to make all my projects look EXACTLY THE SAME as the teacher's example. Even when I managed to create a good copy (which wasn't often), it still looked wrong. Suddenly my masterpieces had become no better than cheap Justin Bieber posters, representing all my prepubescent failures and squashed hopes and dreams. (Sorry, J.B. I just can't get past the fact it sounds like your chicken nuggets are stuck in a vice grip. All. the. time.)

Essentially, I quit creating and started copying.

Copying is easier. You don't get yelled at for copying. You don't wake up at three a.m. with ideas threatening to explode out your nostrils if all you do is copy. And most importantly, you don't get criticized by nay-sayers or hear the disembodied voice of your fourth grade art teacher whispering in your ear, "you're doing it wrong." You don't have to defend yourself. You don't have to do anything, really. Just copy. Ctrl+C. It's as simple as that.

Bloom Anyway.
Read about it HERE.
If you feel this way, chances are your concept of creativity has been "institutionalized" by the world around you. This is the nature of the institution - level the playing field. Make everyone equal. By doing this, however, individuality is completely sacrificed. Creativity is burned at the stake. If something doesn't look the way it's "supposed" to, it is automatically wrong. End of story. No repeats, no deleted scenes, no extended cuts.

I was conditioned to believe creativity is a trait .. either you have it or you don't. As I've gotten older and (hopefully) wiser, I have learned the opposite is true. Creativity is nothing more than a mindset, a choice really. You're not born with or without it. It's not something you can learn in an art class. It's a completely organic, original process. It cannot be forced. It thrives when you least expect it, popping up out of the cracks of your dry, dead, sleep-deprived brain like a lone flower, bravely facing the withering sun of other people's expectations.

Will your creations suck? Possibly. Okay, probably. At least a few of them, anyway. Does that matter? Absolutely not. When the creative process takes place, there's no worry about what other people will think because there is no such thing as "wrong". How freeing is that? It's like, it's like ... going commando or something. Or not. Whatever floats your boat.

Sometimes creativity is just plain weird. 
The question is, "WHO CARES?"

Don't QUIT. Let your creativity flow. Risk it to get the biscuit. Be coconuts to the walls creative. And tell the rest of the world to suck it.

Go for it!

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  1. Glad you've joined the a-z meme. This is a great post. I love your "voice" in this, and also what you had to say!

  2. @ Shelley - Thanks! I've really enjoyed the a to z meme; it was a perfect way to get this blog started.

  3. You go, girl.
    You have hit this so squarely on the head. Wow.
    Yup, I LOVED this!!


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