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Healthy Creativity


I am creative, though I am reluctant to call myself an artist. “Writer” might be OK but it seems pretentious to even use that. The point is, I’m going to talk about having a healthy creative life, as if I know something about it.

In popular culture, artists–be they painters, sculptors, photographers, actors, musicians, writers, poets, you-name-it–are supposed to be tortured. They’re supposed to be dark, despairing, even suicidal. Nothing means anything except their work, and their work is a reflection of this nothingness. This idea is, perhaps, too readily absorbed by budding artists, as well, who think that if they aren’t enduring tremendous suffering for their art, they’re doing it wrong.

The truth is that this whole idea is what’s wrong.

You don’t have to be dysfunctional to be creative. The only real requirement is that you be observant. Look at what’s going on around you. Notice it. Analyze it. Have feelings about it. Turn those thoughts and emotions into art of whatever form you feel most comfortable (and even try ones you don’t feel comfortable with). That’s all it takes.

There’s an old bit of advice for writers that you should “write what you know.” It’s true, and it applies to all forms of creativity. It doesn’t mean you have to have directly experienced something in order to communicate creatively about it, but you need to know a subject well enough to speak genuinely about it.

A tendency I have observed in some artists is to become single-minded, obsessed with the process of creating their art, while having no experiences outside of it. This turns the artistic process into a closed loop that prevents further growth–it’s not healthy. Obsessive, mentally-unbalanced artists make for good drama, but that’s about it. One can find their own brilliance without drinking themselves into a gutter or burning all of their personal relationships through erratic, deranged behavior. Likewise, new experiences are necessary to expand one’s creative imagination. If the best art draws on real life, then doesn’t it make sense that you have to have more life experiences to become a better artist? It’s self-explanatory, isn’t it?

In reality, there are plenty of reasonably contented people who are out there being creative and have what one would consider normal, well-adjusted lives. There’s nothing wrong with being eccentric, of course, or having strange ideas that are out of the mainstream. It’s important to be true to yourself, especially when being creative, just don’t focus on yourself so much you forget there’s a whole world out there, too, and it’s full of creative possibilities to inspire and stimulate you.