Monday, July 23, 2012

Misconceptions about Art and Creativity, and what is Art anyways?

Nurture and Cultivate your Creative Spark

Twitter is a great place for finding resources and information, having discussions and finding inspiration for blog posts...

So yesterday I read some tweets from Chestnut about her dislike for the use of the word “Creatives” to categorize people, as if only some people are creative and others are not.

What she said really hit home with me and triggered a lot of thought about my own creative expression and misconceptions about what it means to be an artist and live a creative life.

I will try to organize my thoughts on this so that it makes sense…

I have seen the word thrown around here and there and it has never really felt comfortable to me. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I think that in categorizing some people as Creatives, it implies that only certain people are creative and that creativity is some kind of precious commodity that only few people have access to.  Now perhaps it is my own misconceptions and insecurities that cause me to feel irked when I hear that word, but I do believe that living a creative life and producing “art” IS NOT some kind of elitist country club that only a chosen few have the privilege of being a part of.

I happen to believe that we are all Creative by nature.  Every one of us has the ability to express and create whether it be through writing, painting, photography, music, linking prims in virtual worlds, or whatever medium we choose and feel comfortable with.  Some of us are better than others.  Who am I to say that I am a “Creative” and some other person is not?  Perhaps the only difference between the so called “Creatives” and “non-Creatives” is that the latter may have not yet discovered their own desire to create and the means and skill to express it.

And while we’re on the topic, I also really dislike the Tortured Artist stereotype.  It just feeds into the misconception I already stated above – that only certain people are creative, and that suffering is a prerequisite to create good art.  I think this is bullshit and I refuse to buy into and perpetuate such a misnomer.  I’m not saying that hardships in life don’t inspire works of art.  It certainly does. I’m just saying that you do not have to live a dysfunctional life strewn with heartache in order to create and be considered an Artist or, there’s that word again, a Creative.  There are writers, painters, photographers, musicians and all kinds of artistic people who live quiet, “normal”, and overall happy lives and DO NOT suffer for their art.

Personally, I had not attempted any kind of creative expression in several years until I found Second Life.  I didn’t even really know I had the desire to do anything creative until I started exploring the grid and saw all the amazing works of art that people were making.  It made me want to do something too and Second Life actually made me feel that I could conjure up something beautiful and worthy of sharing with others.  I try, and whether my output is good or not, doesn’t really matter.  I get feedback once in awhile for my photos that I share here, and from time to time I make attempts at creating something “arty” in Second Life (see photo above).  I truly appreciate the positive feedback (thank you!), but that’s not why I do it.  I choose to create because it is an internal process and it makes me feel good.  Whether I am working through (or trying to forget) some emotions that I do not understand, trying to capture a feeling, essence or concept and convey it in a photo or in words, it is my personal creative process that matters most.

The finished product, fabulous as it may be, is really secondary to the Creative Process.  To me, that is what art and creative expression is all about, the process, the journey that leads the artist to their completed work. Every one of us, even me and you, has it in us to make our own path, create something beautiful and meaningful and call it Art.


  1. Great post!

    Remember back to our early years in school when everyone was given crayons and paper? We were all expected to tap into our creativity on a daily basis as young children. Surely some kids drew detailed worlds and others just scribbled, but all of us expressed ourselves.

    Are we all great artists? Certainly not. Then again most of us are not great chefs but that should not stop us from heading to the kitchen to cook a meal.

    The only things we are absolutely unable to do are the things we don't attempt.

    1. "The only things we are absolutely unable to do are the things we don't attempt."

      Yes, absolutely! And our greatest challenge is overcoming that shitty voice in our heads that tells us we can't.

  2. In my personal experience, the 'tortured artist' stereotype springs forth, at least sometimes, from artists who feel they're under pressure to be 'meaningful'. That their art has to make a grand statement in order for them to be validated as legitimate artists.

    This notion seems to originate from the world surrounding art, and many self appointed gatekeepers who wish to keep 'false art' out. Thus the rotating carousel conversation about 'what is art?"

    In truth, virtually anything can be art and art happens everywhere. If one reads between the lines in most arguments about the definition of art, you tend to find an agenda to prop one person up and cut another down, rather than an honest attempt to get to the truth.

    1. I agree totally, Space Dinosaur.

      I really don't know anything about art. I do however know when someone has put forth a genuine and real effort to create something that is a reflection of who they are, what they have experienced and how they view the world. If they're output makes me FEEL something of their personal process, I consider that a success.

  3. I've always disliked using a word that's an adjective to replace "people", be it "creatives", "normals", "blacks", "depressives", etc. We're all just people, not single adjectives.

    Also, I'm reminded of a quote my eighth-grade teacher read to us once: "You don't need to suffer to be creative. Adolescence is suffering enough for anyone." The room full of 13-year-olds erupted into a standing ovation.

    Nonetheless, I had myself convinced for a good long time that if I got my bipolar (then misdiagnosed as just chronic depression) treated, then I wouldn't be creative anymore. It was a real fear that held me back for a long time. I'd like to say to anyone facing similar feelings: you WILL still be creative. And you'll be more PRODUCTIVE besides.

    1. Wow, really great points Mistletoe. Re: depression, that is such a common fear. I think it really comes down to what beliefs we hold and the choices we make. Treating depression or bipolar does not mean you have to sacrifice your creativity. It may mean finding a different creative process to express it.

      Your eighth grade teacher sounds really cool! I love that quote!

  4. I, for one, would like to encounter a Tortured Actuary or Tortured Personal Buyer or Tortured Veterinarian's Assistant.


    1. Don't know any, but if you are ever looking for a Tortured Social Worker, I know someone...

  5. Thank you for saying this. I, too believe everyone is a "creative type" ! It takes great creativity to use one's mind to solve any problem. "Art" is just another puzzle to solve. This comes from me.. and indivudual who has been doing and studying art/design since I was like 4. ALL 4 yr olds are artists... they are only convinced later that "creativity" is restricted to "special" people. [like me.. a special person.. but to many that (special) means i am just nuts, certainly not anything to do with my lifelong quest to cover the world in glitter, rhinestones, and anything else I find attractive :) lol]

  6. Fun post! I agree with much of what you said...that we are all artists. I like Seth Godin's post on this topic, from his entry "Risk, fear and worry:"

    He says (among other things): "And nothing courts risk more than art, the desire to do something for the first time--to make a difference." I like how he defines art "the desire to do something for the first time--to make a difference" (either in ourselves, our process, our perception, others, etc.).

    I also think we could do with an overhaul to how we language things. Labels in particular, like "Creatives" certainly help to organize categories into byte-size pieces but the rub with them is that they tend to broadcast the implied (or not so implied) exclusive nature than anything universal or inclusive. And they tend to be abused for sure. Would be fascinating to see a new approach with languaging that still allowed some mechanism for organizing or affinity without also erecting real or perceived barriers.

  7. it's all play, isn't it? ... and we all can play if the conditions are right.

    1. @Zola - a world covered in glitter and rhinestones? I could live with that! ;)

      @michele - great link, I will read that and I really like that quote. Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

      @soror - oh yes, definitely! I'm logging in so i can go play right now! :))