Creativity and Status

June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

I’ve been wanting to write about creativity on this blog for a long time.  Each time I’ve tried, I’ve gotten all tangled up, stumbling over my words and feelings.  It seems I can write about the interpersonal dynamics of my sex life and changing core values with less inhibition than I can even about the topic of creativity.  I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

It seems that one primary thing our culture covertly wants to kill is creativity.  We have this idea that as adults if we dare to make something, be it a pot or a drawing or a story (anything but a child or an income really) we are claiming a superior status to others.  We are looked at with a hostile, piercing, critical lens.  And most of us have internalized that lens well enough to be “humble” and keep our creative foolishness to ourselves and never let it see the light of day and bring shame into our adult lives, and we block the joy and hope it could bring, as well.

A professor I had in college once told a story just as an aside in a course on religion that stuck with me.  He told us when he was traveling in Spain, he kept seeing guitars sitting in the corners of restaurants.  He said after a while, he saw that random people would just walk up and play a song or two then sit back down.  He could not believe they had the nerve to play publically, but they were well received.  And he remarked how in America, anyone who picks up an instrument had better prove something or else, and said he felt that in Spain music was understood as being more something that belonged to many people and was something that they’d want to share and other people would want to receive.  There wasn’t such absurd status or exclusive ownership attached to it, or consumer value either, which I also think was not a coincidence.

I finished writing a novel recently, and I’ve started the long process of submitting to literary agents.  I am already getting the stone wall, “Have you been published?” and then instantly discredited response when it comes up with people outside my close circle of friends.  I don’t bring it up myself with people who aren’t invested in me as an individual, not because I’m not proud or excited about it or because it’s not a major part of my life lately, but because it is not a safe thing to say.  I’m more likely to come out as queer in a group I know is homophobic than to talk about being an artist with people who don’t already know and like me.  And even then, I’m cautious.

I think we all have an internalized sense of a vicious, critical observer in our minds, something generously bequeathed to us in this culture to keep us in check.  It seems to me like a mechanism of control, perhaps one of the primary ones, and it has me wondering why.  Who benefits from this?  How do we fight it?  What would the result of breaking through be?

I have a feeling that consumerism itself is the opposite of creativity.  That autonomy and creativity, like autonomy and sexuality, are intrinsically linked if they’re separate at all, and that controlling them is key to any system of dominance.


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§ One Response to Creativity and Status

  • Alex Straaik says:

    My goodness. I apologize for being late to the game, but wow. I am, as ever, completely taken with your marked honesty; you dare to eat the peach. I have taken to calling the publishing industry Survivor: Book Publishing. All the “I’m no longer convinced I wish to engage in this field, but I also know there’s no way I cannot,” which you illustrated so eloquently here I am feel better armed to discuss such matters. I just may quote you. But I always credit. It’s who I credit that’s the ethical dilemma. ;) You’re amazing.

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