Happy Frustration

The Truth Behind the Glamour

I talk a lot in blogs and articles about how we’re all a bit creative … how we’re made in God’s image, including His creative bent. It’s the creative bent inside of us that we call upon when solving problems and running our lives.

Still, just like changing the oil in your car doesn’t make you a mechanic, very few people would label themselves as a “creative”, no matter how gorgeous the décor is in their living room.

So when someone actually is a creative – they paint or sing or sculpt, etc. – the rest of us tend to be a little awestruck … how did they do THAT?!

Art in all forms plays a big part of our lives. You don’t have to visit galleries or museums … who can get through a day without listening to music, watching a movie, reading a book or using some gadget that someone designed? All produced by talented creatives.

Most people have a favorite creative that they admire or follow … a favorite writer, a favorite band, a cartoonist, a painter. Even creatives have favorite creatives … someone who has mastered a medium or skill they aspire to, someone who has inspired them, someone who does something they would love to do, or would like to learn to do.

And all around our creative heroes swirls a cloud of romance, mystique, and adventure. Our heroes live just a few planes higher than us, and we like it like that.

So the creatives create and the non-creatives enjoy the results with joy and wonder.

Eventually, joy and wonder give way to good old-fashioned curiosity, especially if the creative has achieved some measure of public or financial success. So out to the studio come the reporters and interviewers …

Please, Mr/Ms Creative, tell us just how in the world did you manage to do that marvelous thing you did? We are totally dumbfounded and amazed, and we simply must know all about the process you go through that enables you to accomplish things no mere mortal should be able to accomplish …

The creative is naturally quite flattered. There’s a mike and a camera in their face and the world waits with bated breath … With a misty faraway look in their eyes, they tell us what we want to hear and what they want to say:

Well, it was an ordinary morning, just like any other morning. I was especially groggy and tired, because that was the weekend of the big game that went into overtime, and everybody was at my house and they didn’t go home until the wee hours of the morning … anyway, I drug myself out of bed very late the next day, and I went into the kitchen and poured myself a big bowl of cereal. I was sitting at the counter trying to wake up, my head in my hands, staring down at the bowl and trying to muster up enough energy to chew a mouthful … and that’s when the proverbial lightning struck! Out of nowhere … I can’t really explain it … it was in the bowl … it was the way the milk was caressing the little o’s … the way they floated in a sea of white … the little bubbles that teased the edges … the way the morning light came through the window and danced across, making highlights and shadows in the bowl … it was like heaven was beaming it’s very light down on me … ideas and inspiration exploded in my heart and mind … it was ..… SPIRITUAL! I rushed back to my studio and before lunch time I had created my masterpiece! I knew it was a masterpiece, because upon finishing, I swear, I could hear distant singing … a choir! Yes! A celestial choir! Angel voices celebrating! It was humbling and exhilarating, all at the same time! I am not worthy … I was born for this moment … my life will never be the same again!

The audience is stunned … they just KNEW that the whole thing was a miracle … what else could it be? And they got to hear it first hand, right from the horse's mouth! It WAS a miracle!!

And just like that, the romance, the mystique, the adventure that swirls around our favorite creative, is fully validated ... they DO walk on water after all!!

Now stuff like this does actually happen on occasion. We’ve all heard about how song lyrics and music flowed like water and a wonderful song came to be in about ten minutes. We’ve heard stories of great novels that were fleshed out on a napkin during lunch. It does happen – maybe once in a blue moon for about 2% of creatives – but it’s not the norm for the other 98%, and it’s certainly not true all the time for 100% of creatives.

The Glamour

A creative’s brain is just different. Not superior. Not inferior. Just different.

A regular brain will see a landscape and emotions get stirred up by the beauty. It thinks: Oh! I want to remember this! It savors the sights and the feelings and stores away the memory, and perhaps snaps a photo.

A creative’s brain will see a landscape and emotions get stirred up by the beauty. It thinks: Oh! I want to capture this! Not only do their emotions get stirred, their imagination gets stirred as well … musicians hear sounds, visual artists see colors and forms, dancers can feel movement and life, writers speculate what’s beyond that mountain …

A photo might get snapped, but, more than just storing a memory, it will likely turn into a reference photo, because all this stirring up is going to lead to action …

This is inspiration … and yes, it could possibly even happen in a bowl of cereal! Any sight, sound, smell, taste, feel or feeling – anything that stirs up senses and emotions – can grab a creative’s attention. And it usually happens at unexpected times, out of the blue.

This is where the romance and mystery begins …

Non-creatives can’t fathom how creatives see what no one else sees.

And creatives can’t fathom how no one else sees what they see.

Now the hard work begins … how to capture all the vision and sensations so that others can see and feel them, too …

The Frustration

Life is full of metaphors.

Here’s one for you:

The creative process is like birthing a baby. The whole process is filled with struggle, pain, and agony. But the end result is such joy and happiness that all of the struggle, pain, and agony are soon forgotten.

Even creatives who have never birthed a literal baby, absolutely know about the struggle, pain, and agony they went through while trying to birth their creations.

Some days inspiration and ideas flow like water. That’s fun! Those are the days that most creatives are happy to talk about to anyone who will listen.

But there are days that creatives don’t like to talk about: those days when inspiration and ideas wouldn’t come out with a crowbar and a sledgehammer.

The physical act of producing work is hard enough … creatives must know the tools of their favored medium and how to use them. The better they know how to wield their tools, the more likely it will be that the finished work will capture their vision and communicate that to their audience.

But by far, the toughest part of creativity is knowing what to do when the inspiration and ideas dry up. Creatives who work with clients and deadlines, don’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. They have to produce work regardless.

Some creatives think it’s a personal flaw, but it’s not.

It’s about doing the hard work of developing the mental discipline to know what to do when the energy stops flowing. It’s the hard work of developing work habits that encourage your brain to know, It’s time to work!

It sounds purely logical, and it is. Success in any endeavor requires hard work and discipline.

But creatives have unique brains, and for them, the very thought of discipline and schedules is counterintuitive. Art is about unleashing unbridled freedom. Routines, schedules and working when you don't feel like it does not feel like the right answer to them.

They have to work hard at balancing all the emotion and energy that helps them produce great work, with the logic and practicality that helps them actually produce the work.

Creatives who would rather work with wild abandon will still produce great work, but maybe not such a volume of work. If they are doing both, they definitely have some kind of system in place that works for them, even it's unconventional. That's awesome, because that's what creativity is about after all ... thinking outside the box!

It’s a real struggle that goes on daily behind closed studio doors. It’s a very personal and intimate struggle, and there aren’t many creatives who talk about it very much, because they know about the joy of the finished masterpieces … the joy in sharing and telling the world about it. And the sheer joy in knowing, I did that!!

The Happiness

Living entities with lungs must breathe, and people endowed with creativity must create. Creatives create simply because they’ll bust if they don’t.

Once that "baby" gets birthed, no one – including the creatives themselves – remembers the hard days and nights when the ideas just wouldn’t come and they just couldn’t seem to get it right.

It's too much fun sharing and enjoying the fruits of all their hard labor. The pain and struggle is over and forgotten and it's not likely to come up in conversations.

So enjoy the creatives you admire and the new ones you'll discover. Enjoy that air of romance and mystery they bring with them ... it's all an illusion, of course, but it's fun, too!

And don't forget to reward them with an occasional, How did you do THAT?!