Sunday, May 5, 2013

To Create or Not to Create, That is the Question

Photo by Weiford Watts 

"From Shadow to Seen"

I wax philosophical on Sundays, mulling over those deep questions of human existence and why we are here. Are we here to take up space and get caught up in the gears of our cultural existence—sitting on the couch after a grinding work day watching news, sports or reality television? The key word there is “watching,” not creating. Or are we here to put something of ourselves out into the world to improve it if even infinitesimally? Shouldn’t life be about creating something—a song, a meal, a child, a home, a garden, a business, a dance, a blog or work of art? It does not have to be masterpiece to be a contribution. That said, what gets in the way of creating?

My answer is that it is probably fear—fear of failing and of not being good enough. Fear that we don’t have the right talent, experience, credential, or degree. We are afraid to make something ugly or stupid and to be ashamed. We remember the time we painted our room yellow and, instead of being surrounded in warm sunshine vibes, it looked more like our dog peed all over the wall. We remember the poem we wrote in college—the one about the heartbreak and agony of our first love—which got a D for drivel. We remember the time we planted a garden on a warm spring day and forgot to water it in. Next morning, every plant had withered and died. OK, sometimes we don’t get it perfect the first time. We need to take small steps.

My sister, Bonnie Black, an author of three books and a university teacher, has said there are three things you need to do to when you write: edit, edit and edit. The key message here is easy enough, in order to edit you have to have something to edit. Which means you must write something, anything, down on the proverbial paper. My friend, Pauline Hauder, a painter, will tell you in order to keep the creative juice flowing, you should paint (and play with) more than one canvas at a time and have several going, which insures not getting attached to the outcome of just one. “Keep playing,” she always says. She has drawn and painted hundreds of beautiful pictures, and hundred more that wound up as compost. We learn every time we try. Just keep playing. My niece, Gretchen Schmelzer, who is a psychologist and writer, talks about "The Something Plan" in her blog post from April 12, 2013.
Here are the rules of the Something Plan:
1. Just do Something.
2. Something is always better than Nothing.
3. Somethings always add up to Something More than you can imagine
I love the simplicity of this Something Plan!

Besides, a person does not need a degree in English, creative writing or journalism to tell their story. They need to get it down and out; then go about the task of editing. One does not need to have an art degree, BFA or MFA, to create something visual, just the desire to try. There are countless examples of self-taught writers and artists—Mark Twain and Charles Dickens dropped out of school at the age of 12. Woody Allen barely made it through one semester of college and is a prolific screenplay writer and director. Henri Rousseau, a French post-impressionist painter, had no formal art training and his work hangs in MoMa and Musee d'Orsay.

It is in the telling of stories and attempting art by which children freely access their creative genius. Then we all grow up and become afraid.  We fear the inner and outer critics. In the interest of keeping the cog of creativity moving forward and of putting something out there, I am sharing a project called “From Shadow to Seen.” It is a place for women and girls to come out from behind their shadow, fight some fears, and submit their story, poetry or artwork. It is a place for small steps, a place for "the Something Plan." Go ahead, go there, read the details, write or create something, edit, then submit. And perhaps you can solve this philosophical question of why we are here: To create or not to create?

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