"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Creative Life

What does it mean to live a creative life? Google images would have you believe it looks something like this:
Dalton Trumbo (Source)
Photo by Lynn Bauer (Source)
Wether you see yourself in a bathtub with a typewriter or painting in a field full of flowers, when picturing the creative life there's always a sense of creating something out of nothing, of a life that borders on chaos but never leaves the realm of possibility. Maybe this is why we love hearing about "process" and "routine." We're trying to explain the unexplainable.

On the surface level, the life of an intellectual like Darwin looks pretty darn perfect. His routine included working through the morning, long walks in the afternoon, and reading in the evening, all in a secluded, stately home in English countryside. What this routine doesn't show is the crippling doubt and stress induced by his work, and the inner turmoil that ruled his life, from his compulsive letter writing habits ("Darwin made a point of replying to every letter he received, even those from obvious fools or cranks. If he failed to reply to a single letter, it weighed on his conscience and could even keep him up at night." Sourceto the rift his scientific discoveries created between him and his wife. What I'm getting at here is that the creative life isn't all painting in fields of wild flowers.

This is not meant to discourage those looking to go into a career in the arts. It is however meant to dispel the idea we have of creative individuals as enlightened beings who have somehow transcended the plight of every day living. Even its opposite, the "tortured artist" trope, is an idealization in its own right. We are just like you. We have bad days, and we have good ones. They can be exciting and productive, but they can just as easily be mind-numbingly boring.

I really dislike the way we split ourselves into categories: left-brainded vs right-brained. Analytical vs. Creative. Conventional vs. Unconventional. As if accountants can't think creatively and artists can't be analytical. And worse, that the route we choose in life can be labeled as "lucrative" or not, that we are suddenly seen as outsiders if the path we choose doesn't point towards clear-cut success.

While writing this article I stumbled across a quote by John O'Donohue that reads:

"The call to the creative life is a call to dignity, to a life of vulnerability and adventure..."

While I appreciate the sentiment, I would argue that it's not the just the creative life that should contain these things, but life in general. Here's to living a life of vulnerability and adventure, whether you are working a 9-5 job or making things up in a cabin in the woods.


Check out this fantastic info-graphic on the creative life. If you're lucky, I would hope your life includes lots of these things, even if you're not living the creative ideal.

I've been really interested in Darwin lately, can you tell? Read more about his daily routine here, and don't miss out on this awesome graphic novel biography.

If you haven't noticed, I link to Brain Pickings a lot. It is a compendium of knowledge I never would have discovered otherwise, and I highly recommend you go subscribe to their newsletter. Like, right now.

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