I am considered a creative, a writer. My job title is “Writer” and I tell people that I am a writer. It’s how I identify with the world. Even though I say this, I just don’t know that I actually am one. I usually qualify the statement by saying that I hope to one day be published. The lack of publishing stats isn’t the issue though. It’s hard to imagine myself as a representative of such sacred words because I’m not sure that my writing stands up against the works of others and I don’t know that my writing does the idea of “writer” justice. I certainly hope it does. I’ve been writing my entire life and it’s something I want very much. But really, I don’t know.
I have friends who are always praising my skills and part of me fears that I don’t or can’t really live up to their hype or expectations. I know that I’m not alone in this fear. There are a lot of creatives out there who don’t think that they are up to par with their artsy peers and lately I have found myself wondering why many (but certainly not all) of us creative types seem to have this deficiency in our confidence.
I brought this up in conversation with a friend and fellow writer the other night and he said it’s because we create something out of nothing. I hadn’t thought of it in such terms before. But this seems a valid reason when considered. I hate staring at an empty page, particularly when the cursor is blinking tauntingly at me. It seems to tell me that I have nothing and thus I am nothing.
The creative process is very temperamental, at least in my experience. Sometimes it’s so easy to come up with ideas. Someone will give me a prompt and I’ll give them a whole new world that sprouts in my imagination while I’m talking. At others, it’s like trying to bleed a dead duck. Nothing comes out unless you force it. And when you do force it, it’s not what you wanted anyway. When you’re on, no one can stop you. But when you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s agonizing and makes you question everything you have ever done or will do, provided that you can escape the black hole of writer’s block-dom.
According to physics, energy to create or alter something has to come from somewhere. If we follow the physics route, the energy comes from within the creator him or herself. That sort of transmutation is tough. It’s next to impossible. And while we are off performing Herculean tasks, we put so much of ourselves into them that we worry obsessively about reception or how we are perceived as progenitor. Like gods, we have created something out of nothing and this thing not only represents who we are, but it also holds our very mortal souls within it.
As a creative in the post-post-modern reality of today, it’s impossible to think of “art” in any unified sort of way because post-modernism by definition insists/ed that we think of any one concept individually. For example, if someone says the word boat, I may think of a pirate ship and you may think of a speedboat. Boat means something different to each person. Thus, art means something different to every person.
Sometimes this muddles the idea of “good” art versus “bad” art. At least, in my head it tends to. Can you really claim that something is good or bad? There are always people out there who think “art” should only depict beautiful things. But only depicting the beautiful is neither real nor accurate and it certainly doesn’t encompass the whole of the human experience. Perhaps something someone creates is not my taste, but that doesn’t mean it is poorly done. Then again, I have read some pretty bad prose in my day. I suppose that you can always judge someone’s “skill” or “technique.”
Either way, I love seeing the many ways that people choose to express themselves. Whether it’s through painting, found objects, writing poetry or writing about death and insanity, they are all art. And it’s great to live in an environment and society in which whatever “art” I choose is acceptable. But still, although I know these things, I have a hard time embracing the idea that I, myself, am an artist. I am a creative. I am a writer. Really, I just hope I’m good enough.