Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Creativity and Can't

I'm sitting around a lot lately. I've never had fibro like this before, where the palms of my hands and the soles of my feet feel bruised, so I can't really do anything (holding a knife, walking, opening cans, etc hurt). My hips and legs and arms all ache, which adds to the difficulty in accomplishing anything.

So I'm sitting around a lot, looking at Facebook and the news and my email and thinking when the brain fog isn't too intense (which it usually is).

Today, I started seeing those stupid cards on Facebook again.

For example, one card advised that one of your New Year's Resolutions should be to cut out the word "impossible."  It's a nice warm fuzzy thought, that we can do anything as long as we believe we can. But it's really one of the stupider things I've heard.  Impossible is a reality in life. It's meant to be that way. We each have different gifts and different handicaps and different circumstances, and while it's nice to say I could earn a million dollars this month if I tried hard enough, it's not really possible. I'm never going to be able to play in the NBA, even when I'm not pregnant. I'm not able to fly without help, as much as I'd like. I am never going to be able to live loop a song.

It's really unfair to tell people with handicaps, like fibro, that the reason they can't do things is because they are thinking about it all wrong--that if they just tried harder and believed harder, they could do what they want to do. Fibro stops me from being able to play the piano without pain. I tried to take pictures of Tim yesterday and discovered that I can't hold a camera up in front of my face--my arms hurt and then they just won't cooperate.

Sometimes "I can't" and "It's impossible" are the most important things we can say because they allow us to accept our limitations--and either move on in a different direction (finding other pastimes and talents, for example, instead of playing piano) or ask for help (so that Tim makes dinner on the days that I hurt too much to hold a knife). Really, accepting "can't" and "impossible" are far more empowering than abolishing those things from our vocabulary. God gave us all things we can do, and we're much more happy and productive if we work on those things--the things that are easy and enjoyable, or the things we feel driven and motivated to work hard on--instead of wasting our whole lives pursuing unrealistic goals that we really can't do. (Not to say we should never do hard things--of course we should. But chasing impossible things is stupid.)

Another one I saw today said that an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail.  I think a businessman  must have written that. All (except maybe 1) of the creative people I know (and I know a LOT) are deeply terrified of failure. They are even more afraid of failure than the non-creative people I know. Most have so much anxiety about failure that they need counselling and medication (even if they don't get it).

And that fear is actually what motivates them to keep going and keep refining and keep polishing and keep perfecting their art. It's the thing that makes them rewrite the novel fifteen times until they're sure it's good, and then revise it again ten more times based on the feedback they got from one or two trusted people. It's the thing that makes them write a hundred songs and only release the best ten. Or one. It's the thing that makes them throw away dozens of canvasses and only try to sell the best one.

People who are not afraid to fail are not driven to succeed.

Sure you can be creative if you aren't afraid to fail--you're not afraid to look at things in new ways. But the really, truly creative people I know are the ones who can't help but think outside the box (not the ones who do because they aren't afraid to). It's not a change in thinking that makes them able to be intensely creative. They just ARE that way--and often are ashamed of it, frustrated by it, terrified of it. They are people who say, "Why can't I be normal?", not people who say, "Maybe if I work at failing on purpose, I can lose my fear of it and then I can be more creative." They are people who know it's irrational, know it's a "waste of time", know it's not financially viable, but they can't help lying awake at night thinking of new ways of doing things, new things they could create, new conversations for characters to have, new poems or lyrics to songs.

It has nothing to do with lacking a fear of failure, and everything to do with an internal compulsion that won't let them go. Creativity is not something they do on purpose. It's an essential part of their being, like breathing.

And the ones that develop it into something amazing are more often than not terrified of failing.

No comments: