Q: What is creativity?
A: The relationship between a human being and the mysteries of inspiration.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m currently reading this book and I wanted to share with you all the thoughts swirling around my head, like phantasms of knowledge waiting to burst forth. Writing about this book allows me to do just that.
Sometimes people condemn imagination, telling us to stick to reality. Why?
“Life is fleeting,” they argue, and that we should make use of the limited time we do have productively.
You ask those people who argue about productivity and a limited lifespan, “What is productivity?” They shrug and say it’s to go to college, get a well-paying job, start a family, buy a 3LDK house, and retire in luxury. That’s it. They want to stifle any possible hopes and dreams you may have in you. They want you to pursue your happiness defined not by your individual self, but by the values which they and society embody. They want you to live in fear of pursuing anything which entices your imagination.
However, each and every person, once they look at the world through their imagination unhindered can discover a “lifelong commitment to the search for grace and transcendence.” This is a great way to become anything that “calls to your heart and brings you to life.”
|One representation of a bundle of neurons. |
Metaphorically, they are as dense and interconnected as we are.
The poet Jack Gilbert (1925-2012) once asked a talented student of his what they planned to do in the future. The student replied hesitantly that they would like to become a writer, but they were unsure about it. He then asked the student “Do you have the courage? Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you say yes.”
Once I read this I couldn’t help but feel a torrent, a SURGE, of exuberant emotion coursing through me. When I read this, I was both shocked and jubilant; shocked because I never knew Jack Gilbert the person, I only knew about Jack Gilbert the poet; jubilant, because I remembered my high school teacher expressing his belief that I too have a jewel of talent waiting to be excavated and refined within me.
Here’s a poem by him, one I’m particularly fond of.
BY JACK GILBERT
I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strange that she has returned
as somebody's dalmation. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was never like that with
other people. Sometimes she is tethered
on their lawn when I go by. If nobody
is around, I sit on the grass. When she
finally quiets, she puts her head in my lap
and we watch each other's eyes as I whisper
in her soft ears. She cares nothing about
the mystery. She likes it best when
I touch her head and tell her small
things about my days and our friends.
That makes her happy the way it always did.
So, what I want to ask all of you is this: Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures hidden within you? The greatest hunt in the history of mankind is the hunt for your self. Each of us can transcend to discover the jewel hidden deep within us. I’ve no idea what the jewel hidden within you is, but I know that it exists; I know that the greatest result of this hunt is a meaningful, creative way of living. Go and explore yourself. Take the first step.
Wait, what? You’re afraid? Afraid of what? Exploring yourself? Taking the first step? That society will judge you? That people will criticize and condemn you?
Never fear, for I’m here… to tell you that
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE BEST.
You don’t need society to accept you.
(You don’t have to limit yourself in doing what you want. You don’t have to quit your pursuit in becoming a doctor or professor just to find some "meaningful" career.That’s not what this is about. Both of those are meaningful careers within their own right. You can do something as simple as start being active in some previous hobby which brought you joy or explore some activity you’ve always wanted to participate in, such as sky diving. LIVE CREATIVELY).
Once you give something up because of society ostracizing, alienating, or condemning you, you’ve then discarded a piece of yourself. That piece of you then becomes a lingering will, waiting for the day (if the day ever comes) for you to piece it back in you. If not, then slowly but surely, you’ll become listless.
I’ve always dreamed of becoming a writer, romanticizing the notion of someone who works restlessly on their novel or text in the hopes of getting published someday. However, some voice of reason in me kept me from doing that. In reality, I was afraid. I made excuses. I never even tried. I kept listening to that voice of raison d’etat, which told me that I wouldn’t be able to write, be successful, or produce anything meaningful.
|Painting from the MET. My idea of a romanticized|
writer working in the attic tirelessly.
Something in me clicked recently as I was reading this book. I don’t need to be afraid of anyone or anything. If people were to negatively judge me for what I do, let them, they probably have nothing better to do.
I simply asked myself what makes me the happiest? When is it that I find myself entranced?
The answer I reached is when I’m living creatively, when I’m reading and writing. My imagination is my greatest comfort, bringing to life all sorts of literature, be they difficult and dense like The Brothers Karamazov, modern young adult fantasy like Harry Potter or comics like Tokyo Ghoul.
I began to ignore the doubts which would creep up behind me and began to write. I don’t write to please anybody in particular. I write because I have fun. As an adult (albeit, a young one), I have the perspective to appreciate the value of my own joy.
What I’m saying is, please…
Live creatively. Go, pursue your own happiness. You don’t have to drop out of college and start a new career to do that. If somewhere deep inside you there’s any sort of inquisitiveness, then follow it, and see where it’ll lead you.
Are you afraid about the people who will question your motives? Let them. After I began to write more and more for fun, someone asked me if I’m writing a novel for publication, and I said no, I have no thoughts about that.
After that, their mouth became as venomous as a Cobra. They began to question my future, as if they knew what was best for me. How could they? What sort of narcissistic entitlement allowed them to do so? They reduced my writing — my happiness — to a mere “unproductive past-time.” I told them as respectfully as I could that I write for my sake, for my own happiness, and not for others’.
Even now, as I’m writing about this, I find myself thoroughly happy.
I’m living creatively.
Okay, good, you’re now thoroughly interested in living creatively. First, you’re gonna need to be brave. You’ll need courage.
We all know that fear is the greatest enemy of bravery. Fear, however, is not something we should just discard, and there’s a good reason for that. As Gilbert says,
“Fear is boring… because it's the same thing everyday.”
That’s where you come in. All of us can feel fear. You’re not special in that regard. It’s a basic human reflex which has aided us in our evolutionary timeline. After generations of fear, however, it’s become mass-produced. It’s a product with which all of us are born with. That’s why sometimes we need to shelve that fear for a bit. I’m not saying become fearless, because,
“Creativity is a path for the brave, but it is not a path for the fearless… Bravery means doing something scary. Fearlessness means not even understanding the word scary means.”
Now, as strange as this sounds, I want you to craft your fear, to mold it into something you can conquer. Let your fear propel you forward in courage, towards a meaningful and transcendent life. Let not society and others dictate to you their values; follow your OWN values. Be brave. Be courageous. Find that right balance of fear and courage inside of yourself, because that binary is what’ll allow you to find your own creative way of living. Let it help you find that hidden treasure lodged deep within you somewhere.
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”
Onur A. Ayaz