“I don’t want to go to bed. I have more I want to work on in my book,” my 11-year old son said as he switched off the light in his bedroom.
I’d already given him 10 more minutes to work on a book he’d started writing and I knew without the proper rest school would be hard to navigate the next day.
How many times had I said something similar? How many times had I dreaded bed time or school or work because it would make me stop the creative flow of ideas pushing at my brain, stretching it out until it might burst?
“I don’t want to go to bed, I have to finish this sketch.”
“I don’t want to go to bed, I have to write these thoughts down.”
“I don’t want to go to bed, I have all these photographs I want to edit and make my own.”
“I don’t want to do the laundry, I have this blog post I want to finish.”
“Ugh. Look at all those dishes to wash! When all I want to do is write down this thought I had for a photo project.”
Over the years I’ve learned a few things about creative people.
1) It’s hard, at times, for creative people to function as a normal human being. Don’t misunderstand, we creatives are “normal” but we aren’t always functioning in life the way we might should be, especially if we want things like say – an education beyond creative aspirations or a clean house or bathed children or a full meal or a working car or a regular, money making 9 to 5 job.
2) Creatives are often scattered brained and exhausted individuals. We stay up late completing our creative ideas or we wake up early because the idea for a blog post or a painting or a photo keeps poking us awake. Like this blog post, which woke me up an hour and a half before I had to get up and will leave me bleary-eyed throughout the day.
3) Creatives are also often suffering from low blood sugar because sometimes we are so wrapped up in an idea for a project we forget to eat. If you see a person with glazed over eyes and swaying back and forth as they walk, don’t assume they’re drunk, but question if they are a creative person who needs to be reminded to eat a full meal.
4) We creatives also often shove ourselves metaphorically into places where we don’t fit but think we should. I don’t know why. I suppose one thing we have figured out is that to be able to put food on the table and feed our family we have to actually work to make money. Money makes the world go around and we need it, unfortunately, so we often force ourselves into money making ventures that really don’t feed our souls.
5) Creatives sometimes fail at everyday tasks. Or at least this creative does.
For example, say my husband and I are at a coffee shop and he says he wants to talk to me about the messy state of our house. This is a hypothetical example, but If it ever did happen, this example would probably be accurate.
Maybe he says to me how he likes order and he doesn’t mind keeping things in order at home, because cleaning and organizing are two of his strengths, but the bottom line is that he is working outside the home and I am not so I need to step up and help out more. He’s never said all this to me, but let’s pretend he has, because, I feel, in reality, he’d really like to say it.
So, the husband is talking about cleaning the house and helping out and . . . My mind wanders because the light is hitting the hair of a woman across the shop just right and all I can think of is what a gorgeous photograph that would make and maybe I could even get back into sketching and sketch that scene and wow! Look at all the color on the wall behind her. It completely balances out with the more muted colors she is wearing and if I took the photo standing here, or a bit to the right, there would be a triangle of light on her, like a warm colored sliver, or arrow, cutting through the dark behind her that is naturally falling from the shadows! Yes! An arrow! That swath of light is like an arrow bringing the eye to the subject of the photo.
The whole time all this is going on in my head my husband might be over on my left or right or maybe he’s right in front of me and he’s going on and on and on about cleaning the house and knowing I have the kids to take care of when he’s at work but he could use some help and “blah blah blah blah.” I’m not hearing any of it, or much of it, because all I can think about is lifting my camera up to take that photo.
See? Creativity can definitely be a curse and I would say a relationship killer, especially if your spouse is the more practical kind, which they usually are because opposites attract, but also because creatives seem to instinctively know they had better hitch a ride through life with someone more practical or they are going to starve.
What are we in? 5 or something?) We creatives are often impractical, that’s what I’m saying.
Creatives are impractical people.
Don’t take that statement too seriously. I’m somewhat joking but also being somewhat serious.
Our creative brains aren’t always wired to think of the practicality of cleaning the kitchen before we cook because we just want to cook and create and make it all look pretty. Someone else can clean the kitchen and be all sensible. Being sensible is boring and squelches creativity! At least that’s how we think, which is why we sometimes have to do a bit of rewiring in our brain because if we don’t we’re going to be left alone with dishes and clothes piled high around us.
I once had a “come to Jesus talk” with a boss. That’s what my husband calls those talks with your boss when your boss is about to lay it all out for you and usually “it all” is “start doing your job right, or get out.”
I started in the journalism business to create – to write – because I loved to create pictures with words. Journalism wasn’t all about writing, though, it turned out. It was also about doing what you were told when you were told to do it and dealing with 30-something different personalities a day in the form of the often grumpy public.
After I had my son I needed a schedule where I could work “normal” daytime hours and be able to be there for him at bedtime while my husband worked a night shift. That creative part of the job I had enjoyed was pushed to the side for a more practical role in the office – typesetting obituaries and society news.
During that season my right sided brain was told it needed to be quiet for eight hours a day and maybe, if my son went to sleep early enough, it could wake up at the end of the day.
Unfortunately, Right Side didn’t enjoy being placed in the dark eight hours a day and started to try to push it’s way into the Left Side brain’s part of the day. So there I was, in front of my boss, who was giving me one of “those talks.” I knew he was right. I needed to “get it together” if I wanted to keep my job.
But then, within a few weeks, I knew I couldn’t keep it together anymore and if I had to typeset one more depressing obituary of a baby or a child or someone I knew, I was simply going to flip out and run screaming from the building. I had been working in newspapers for 13 years at this point and what I had learned was what most print journalists will learn – journalism will gobble you up, chew you up, spit you out and move on to its’ next victim.
After you’ve been spit out you’ll realize you were being chewed on slowly for years with pieces of you falling off slowly, but you ignoring it so you could keep feeling the thrill of the hunt for a good story. I might have been totally swallowed up with no life and relationships left if I hadn’t been relegated to the society and obituary desk because it was in that seat where I lost the thrill of wondering where the next story would come from. There was no “next story” working the obituaries desk; only the next heartbreaking death.
When I walked away from journalism I thought I was walking into creative opportunities but really I walked into creative and financial frustration, which is why creatives need to learn how to mix some practical into their impractical tendencies.
So anyhow, I have digressed quite a bit here because, again, theme of this post, I am a creative. We enjoy scenic detours on the way to our designated point.
So, back to the night I heard my own thoughts come out of the mouth of my child.
I thought “Oh gosh. He has the curse.”
And on the heels of that thought came a giddy rush through my soul, like goosebumps on your skin but only inside. I was reminded that the need to be creative isn’t only a curse – it’s a blessing.
6) When you’re a creative person you see life a lot differently and that’s not actually a bad thing. If it’s raining outside creatives don’t see that as something to be sad about, but rather a chance to photograph rain drops, or sit inside and sketch or paint or scrapbook, or build a desk. When someone else sees a falling down barn, creatives see a story behind the barn and imagine the people who built that barn and how they worked in that barn and interacted with the animals and each other and built a life.
When someone else sees shattered glass, creatives see pieces of a future sculpture.
When someone else sees trash, creatives see how that trash can be used to make something beautiful.
When someone else sees a tree, creatives see a chair.
When someone else sees failure, creatives see potential.
I once thought being creative and in a dream-like state half my life was a curse, but I’ve come to realize that creative people are made in the image of God, the first and ultimate creator.
If we are made in the image of God then being creative is exactly where He wants us to be, even if we sometimes seem scattered and internally chaotic.