Part of creating dangerously, I’ve discovered, is going public even when you have no idea what you’re doing. It is the shameless act of being the Clueless Creative.
I am a creative person, I freely admit that. Acknowledging that fact has helped me better understand myself in many ways. But I also admit that I do not always have a clue about what I am creating or how I am expressing myself as an artist. Like so many creative types, I am drawn to many forms of art. By that I don’t mean I just appreciate different forms of art; No – by that I mean that I try to do many different forms of art. I’m not just talking visual art; for me it has also been music and acting and writing and poetry and photography.
The irony? I don’t really know what I’m doing when I’m doing them. Take playing the guitar, for example. When people say to me, “Oh, I didn’t know you knew how to play guitar!” I often respond by saying, “I don’t!” I am friggin’ clueless about the guitar, really. Whatever I do on it is based on a combination of the most rudimentary knowledge of the instrument plus a heaping helping of making-it-up-as-I-go-along! You may think I’m just being humble, but whenever I get in a conversation with a real guitarist, or they ask me to play along with them, it becomes abundantly clear that I have no idea what I’m doing.
But I do it anyway! What is wrong with me? Why do I do this? There are many people who hide in their basements, strumming guitars, who will never, ever play in public, who are far, far more skilled on the instrument than I. Yet here I am, “playing” the thing in front of people: Chopping away at the twelve chords or so I know, moving that capo up and down, following no discernible strum patterns, having not the foggiest clue about music. I can’t even change the strings on my guitar. Really, if there was a law, they would never give me a license for the thing.
What is this strange impulse to create even when clueless? How to explain it? The same is true in other artistic endeavors I’ve pursued. I also “play” the drums but I often feel like one of those wind-up monkey toy percussionists. My style is so primitive I make Meg White look like Neil Peart (I may not know the drums but I know my drummers!). And acting? I have taken the stage without any knowledge of the craft; actually gone on stage in front of lots of people and pretended I could do this thing (and on more than one occasion, done so in drag)! And writing poetry? I’m sure a poetry professor would skewer me for how I’ve mangled that art form.
I have training in the visual arts. My Bachelor of Fine Arts degree must be good for something, I suppose. But I went about twenty-five years between my art school days and a recent resurgence in creating more art. I feel like a beginner again, in many ways. But when I got back into it, the drive to show others what I’ve done, to make art for others, to be public even with my sketches and works-in-progress, returned with a vengeance. What makes me do this? And to you other creative types reading this blog, nodding along, also feeling clueless but creating anyway, I ask: Why are YOU doing this?
I have thought about this a lot and there is only one answer I can come up with: Because I have to. No other answer fully satisfies. “Because I can” – well, not really, not all of it; not in any accomplished, fine-arteest way, that is. “Because it’s fun” – that’s close but there are many not-so-fun moments in the act of creating that they would seem to keep me from continually trying. “Because I make a living at it” – Well… BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
Ok, get a hold of yerself, Ron…
I have to create. I have to create whether I think I’m really great at it or not. And I have to share it with other people. I think that is a very important part of the equation. In fact, it may be that part that separates the person dabbling in an art form and the person driven to create. You feel that it is a necessity to make your art for public consumption, for public enjoyment, for public rejection, for public shaming (okay, maybe it isn’t that bad).
This is the dangerous part for most creatives, the riskiness of it all: Being willing to be vulnerable, to be naked with your emotions (or another’s emotions) hanging out in front of the crowd. The funny thing about this fact? You really want to. It freaks you out but, dammit, you really want to share your excellent, mediocre or half-baked gifts with other people. Why? Because you realize that this is one reason why you do it in the first place. And, ultimately, it is why you are here on this little greenish blue globe spinning through space.
The people sharing the globe with you need you to keep creating, even when you don’t feel like you have a clue. That’s the beauty of it. The contributions of Creatives are so necessary to creating empathy, to building bridges, to speaking the unspoken, to wrestling with monsters, to giving channels for laughter and tears and anger and sadness and joy to flow unhindered across borders and barriers and over walls.
It truly would be a hell on earth here without creativity, be it masterful or be it clueless, be it professional or be it child-like. I’m okay with being a small part of making it more of a place called home, instead.