Jamie Ridler has a way with words.
I wanted to write something about the feeling of being a square peg that I think a lot of people face when they commit to creative living. But it would be easy for a post like that to come off as whining or "special" or something else that would tap right into our negative stereotypes of artists. Jamie encouraged me to write it anyway, saying, "I think that there is a hunger for some honest reflection on the challenges of creative living." And when I think about it that way—writing for people who are doing this thing and facing that challenge, rather than writing about some kind of "insider" experience for "outsiders"—then it feels easier and more worthwhile.
Because creative living does go against the social grain. A lot of the time, it seems to mitigate against getting that eight-to-five (or seven-to-nine) job that organizes most people's lives. It's hard to direct your own life and follow creative inspiration as an employee whose schedule and responsibilities are determined by others. So committing to creative living sometimes means sacrificing the sense of security, stability, structure, and definition that a job can provide, besides the money.
You live on the edge. You create everything on your own, every day. You never know what will come next. It's stressful. It's powerful. It's exhilarating. It's exhausting. It's creativity.
It's weird to have this thing that you feel like you have to do to be yourself but that doesn't fit the usual categories of paid employment and family life.
The creative process is weird. It can require a lot of down time—gestation time, mulling time, processing time, sitting-and-staring-into-space time. In a busy-busy, get-things-accomplished culture, this can feel like laziness. And when others witness it, they might not know what you're doing. They might not have any idea how to be with you while you seem to be so wholeheartedly doing nothing at all.
Creativity is expressive. It comes from within. It requires introspection. It's personal, individual—just each person's unique stuff being put out there in the world in the form of a song, painting, book, whatever. It's authentic giving, but it looks like self-absorption. Or like arrogance—as if I'm so important, as if what I have to say matters, as if my ponderings are worth the sacrifices of time and energy that could be spent helping others, contributing to something that matters, being productive, being a useful member of society, earning money, getting with the program, and being responsible.
But the thing is, it's what you have. It's what you have to give. This is what I have. This is what I can give, the best thing I can give, the thing that I give most naturally. The thing that I can keep giving and not run dry, run out of stamina and resources. Here you go.
Self-loathing—and its milder forms—is a thing, a possibility. It's easy to feel self-absorbed, useless, lazy, unnecessary, hopelessly out of it, and weird.
I mean, don't give into it, though. As I wrote that last paragraph, I knew that it sounded like words of defeat and depression. It isn't. Because you deal with that while you're living in integrity and feeling like yourself. You're doing your thing, you're in your groove, and you're certain about something. Most nights, you do know what you stand for.
The Creative Dream Journals theme for this month is Finding Home. Creativity is home. Your own process is home. And when you find like-minded others, they're your home. And when you settle in a city (like I have) that celebrates creativity and prides itself on weirdness, you're at home. And while you're in this cocoon, you kind of get the double win: you get to be yourself and be with others who think, "Okay, you're weird—but so are we all, and isn't that great?"
(Lewis Carroll's thoughts on the matter.)
Kelly Besecke writes about spiritual meaning, progressive religion, and authentic living. Her first book, You Can't Put God in a Box: Thoughtful Spirituality in a Rational Age, will be out later this year. Kelly is a dreamer, a thinker, and an incurable idealist who loves singer-songwriter music, impressionism, and every dog she's ever met.