Creative Conviction

~ Creating demands conviction. I believe this to be inherently true. It’s necessary in more ways than can be simply understood. Creation. What kind of special ingredients are required of us to capture our inspiration, take the time to ruminate in its contents, and then let it release us into some kind of passionate motion upon pages, canvases, audiences? Kindling the fires of our imagination, what may we produce? A dream, our wish, the Truth.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

As I live in the world of today, the world of ‘secure,’ restless, unconsummated omens of a distinguished mix of apathy and ex-dread, I find myself continuing to return to ideas about ideas, and their great potential to save us from ourselves. In an unconscious recurrence, I am compelled to pull upon the threads of the ideals of imagination, creativity, making. Since time immemorial, it has been integral for humans to behave in these ways. Whichever way it comes — in the form of art, or social performance, individual discipline or teaching and fostering the collective, the children of tomorrow — we have to make our way through the world, to feel right. I suspect the reason so many don’t feel right is because they have been cut off from imagination and their internal creative energies in some way. 

These days, there is enough content to consume to last many lifetimes, and as a result, one may not see a reason to create at all. Inevitably one turns to the quality of their potential creations, and the natural forces of competition set in. ‘If I can’t make it good, then why should I try at all.’ Compounding this concern is the one of the R.O.I. in the time spent to devote oneself to making anything. That is, return on investment. If one’s fashioned style of making cannot net them ample monetary return, or a return of status, then the venture is not undertaken. And because these barriers are so visible, so tantamount to our concerns in the modern world — of both quality and money — then one’s exploration of their own creative interests and potential talents is never even started {let alone developed into something that may eventually gain them those very resources.}

But these facts, these barriers and entanglements, don’t make our quiet desperation any lesser. We still need the catharsis of creation. Even if we can’t see the avenue to the brandishing of our creations, they are still necessary. As I riff upon these ideals, time and time again, I come to the realization that creative pursuit is just about the only worthy pursuit. Most everything else that can be pursued is less meaningful. Ideas are the absolute best medium for both individual and collective change {especially good ones}. Innovation drives everything good happening around us at any given moment; our economy and our future seem to depend upon the continuous progress of better and better ideas. In the long run, the ideal of creativity within our consciousness is the only thing separating us from the beasts, it’s the only thing keeping us alive. Self-expression moves us beyond surviving and into thriving; it carries the potential to save us from our restlessness and our apathy. Art, alongside our relationships and our mental and physical well-being, I believe is the true crux of transforming our desperation into self-actualization.

No matter what one is doing for their livelihood, whether it be painting or accounting — Man must make. We have to. There’s an inherent call to create something new, something from within only you, an expression of our inner self, unmasked and revealed to the light of the world’s attention (or maybe just your diary for now). Only in creation do we emerge with a flourish from the chrysalis. From past to present, we endlessly tell stories to build ourselves past our tragedies and our mortality. Cultured on tales and myths and all kinds of conscious and unconscious imaginings, we wouldn’t be who we are without them; we wouldn’t be anything recognizable. But in these acts, we cycle between caterpillar and butterfly ad infinitum. Inspiration returns again and again, in new and interesting ways, each consumptive and creative act influencing and generating momentum for the next. I reckon even a single taste is enough to spur one into this pandemonium for a lifetime.

~ A great film inspirits a future director; a memorable book animates a burgeoning writer; a single vision of the spectacular, artistic or realistic, draws the daemon afore the artist, to be worked upon and fashioned into something new.

In my own experience, opening your mind to creative opportunities, such as within storytelling and introspection, is akin to the opening of your personalized Pandora’s Box. Once you have tapped into this stream of consciousness, previously hidden but always there in all of us — inherent to your sentience as a human being — you can’t shut it off. You may find that once you start to tap into your creative outlets, your proverbial third eye will forever be open, and the need to artistically manifest yourself in some way will never ever die.

Unfortunately, this unlocked inspiration does not mean the challenges and conflicts within the endeavor melt away; reality arises to you as a dragon, to be slain or to become your slayer. Creating is never easy, or without its fair share of hard work {especially if you want it to be good.} Drawing, writing, singing, playing are all crafts that demand singular attention. There is devotion in the arts, and the endless march of practice may just get you in the door. In these ways, creativity provides materia, but discipline makes. Thus, art-making, in whatever capacity you access it and no matter to your level of talent, mandates a manner of conviction.

What of this conviction? What ‘fixed or firm belief’ is needed for this seemingly intrinsic manifestation of the creator’s soul? Well, it’s easy to say all this in the abstract: self-expression is good. It’s healthy. It’s necessary. It’s cathartic. It’s a cultivation of your best self. Yes, but what to express? In your chosen art, what does one say? Specifically, what do you make? What avenue do you take and how long do you take it and why are you taking it? Why make what you make?

Eventually, after grasping at an idea, you have to sit down, stay all of the extraneous enterprises going around you in your life, and make something. And voicing yourself into an audience, or into the aether, requires a measure of resolve. Speaking immortalizes words. In the act of making, thoughts turn from formless, shifting apparitions of boundless possible coherences, into concrete, definitive ideals to be experienced by the external world. They are received and they change those people and communities we are in relationship to, thus changing us as well. Acting in the world contextualizes our ideals into reality, i.e. other people give you feedback on what you are doing. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s really bad. Through the dance of the interaction, both in words and actions consummated into the world, we make our way. There are consequences to all of it. Such is the way of existence. As we live, everywhere we tread upon leaves a past full of experiences; in making, we cast down the footprint of our finitude.

And so in making your art, in creating your way through your own world, there are similarly significant consequences to consider before embarking. What kinds of creations are you prepared to stand by and bear the weight of? What are you willing to put your name to? Why are you making these things this way? What do you hope to gain, if anything, in these creative acts? Perhaps more than anything else, one’s art can reflect the inner self, the ultimate form of the true self’s expression. Are you ready to fully put yourself out there? Will you fold when you, in your vulnerability, are met with dissension, misunderstanding, or sheer indifference?

For the conscious creator, their chosen act of creation can be no simple matter. Personal responsibility bears its weight upon the canvas of our impassioned voice into the previous voids of our unlistened word. Hence, the creative conviction needed to begin at all. One has to believe in what they are doing; whether it be for profit or for the sake of the artful expression itself — you have to wield conviction. I think it is necessary to say, do, and make anything at all. Anything borne of lesser passion is also lesser. I believe this is the all-powerful yet hidden motive-thief behind the artist-turned-accountant. Dreams are forcefully cast away into the long midnight of {good} excuses relented to:

I have something to say, but I’m not good enough at saying it.

I wield the talent, but yet carry no conviction. I have no message I can impart.

There’s no clear purpose in creating this. There isn’t any profit in it. It’s interesting but not useful. Thus, it is a waste of time.

I am passionate about it. I love it. But I don’t think I can make a living at it.

Creativity is a gift. I’m no genius. Why bother?

It’s a craft, it requires hard work, and I just don’t have the time to work at these sorts of things.

The world doesn’t need another bad artist, trying their hand at being meaningful in front of other people. Pure hubris.

Such are the mental daemons eating away at the potential creator. It isn’t too hard to see how confidence drains away in the face of these shadows.

How does one make peace with the reality of the uncertainties lying within any sort of creative pursuit? Why risk your livelihood, or merely your time and resources, on pursuing something like your art? At what point does the purest conviction emerge to launch us into our creativity and the consequences be damned?

For some, maybe it doesn’t ever arise. Hence, the life lead of quiet desperation.

For me, it might arise in the consideration of meaning. Art can provide it, and like nothing else.

I believe that creative acts give existential sustenance, a recursive canvas upon which there can be sincere work to belay the suffering of existence, and to fight back against the impermanence, the adversities, and the dread that a tedious life is constantly delivering upon us as we grow up. For me, new ideas, good conversations, mindful writing, and other forms of creation provide the pillars of what might be called the spiritual nourishment of life.

Art and creative work provides a tenable foothold into a few crucial things it might be impossible to gather elsewhere:

~ Escape — Art as a simple but powerful escape from the realms of commonality, mundanity, and the existentially dreadful crises that await us all. Art gives us over to the fantasy of a life worthy of its creation.

~ Purpose — Who can say they have one and they know what it is? Creative effort is a providence to the lost ones, those modern men and women searching for meaning within their life and their work. They are destined to increase in number as we move into this restless future. I think creative pursuits, whether they be aesthetic or progressive, artful or functional, are the best {and perhaps only} avenue for securing life purpose.

~ Transcendence — Creation can transcend our self and our time here, immortalizing our expressions into a reach far beyond one’s understanding and one’s singular life. As a collective, we always need more passion, we need more life. Any art created within the realms of passion is certainly worthy, and even necessary, for our collective consciousness and our culture to experience.

I believe these are the things which edge us ever closer {if still slowly} towards self-actualization, and away from the abyss.

None of this is to say that life is pure hell and the mindful creation of art is the only panacea {although something like that might be true, for some}. The simple truth is that passion is the only way, in whatever way it might appear. And often, as human beings imbued with the creative sprites of sentience, we find our passions and our convictions within the self-expression artistry provides.

~

Given these truths, I might sound hypocritical at this point; for what better causes should the purest conviction originate within me than from these enlightened pillars of experience I seem to find so necessary for a good life?

You would be right; I am a goddamn hypocrite. {Just like all of us are.} Of course, in a meta-critique of my own writing upon this topic {and many others}, I speak aspirationally. I am writing from the perspective of the best self I can envisage, and I try to work towards it. In truth, I am yet seeking conviction in my work, and I am failing all the time.

Søren Kierkegaard said:

“The crucial thing is to find a truth which is truth for me, to find the idea for which I am willing to live and die.”

So seek your way, your Truth, grasp your conviction where you can find it, and create what you need to create. I will continue to do my best to follow Kierkegaard’s words. {and my own}. ~