Welcome to BETWEEN A BOOK AND A HARD PLACE, a blog for the compulsively creative. I’ve spent my entire life in the arts – starting with singing and acting in my teens, and now writing, hence the title of this blog. Feel free to comment, share your experiences, pose questions, or suggest topics. I look forward to sharing the joys and pitfalls of my artistic journey with you.
He who has made a thousand things and he who has made none, both feel the same desire: to make something.
~~ Antonio Porchia
At a party, whenever someone learns that I work in the arts, they nearly always sigh, then say: I wish I could be creative.
I tell them they are, they just don’t realize it.
The urge to create is with us all our lives. Think of the mud pies you made as a kid – you took raw material and made something that had never existed before. No one told you to had to do it, or how to do it, you just did it. You may have made up a mud pie story or a mud pie song as you squished your fingers through the lovely goo, shaping and patting your creation into being. You may have drawn designs on it, or pressed leaves and sticks into it. However you did it, this mud pie was yours and yours alone: it had your stamp of creation on it. Every child makes mud pies, but no one before or since has made them exactly like you did.
That’s a lot of creativity from one humble mud pie.
Yet we discount mud pie-making as child’s play. It was something we did for fun. It wasn’t serious; it doesn’t count. It was hardly creation. Not really.
Everyone is driven to create. Put simply: the urge to create is the drive we all have to make something that wasn’t there before. Even a mud pie.
Any time you make something new, whether it’s a meal or a mural, you are engaged in creation, the most powerful act a human can undertake. Even if you make the same thing again and again – say, your fabulous spaghetti sauce, or umpteen pencil drawings of the tree in your front yard – you are making something new. Any artist will tell you that making the same thing over and over, each time with care and attention, adding tiny improvements along the way, is how we grow creatively. So bake that lemon cake over and over – if you’re paying attention, each cake will be better than the one before. If not, you will learn something from it. This is creation.
What we forget when we get older is that there are as many ways to create as there are people. For some, it’s singing, or dancing, or writing, or sculpting. For others, it might be cooking or gardening. Or it might be dentistry, or nursing, or acupuncture, or other healing arts. It could be hair styling, or make-up artistry, or clothing design, or putting together a style that defines who you are. It might be a combination of many pursuits or just one or two. Anything from needlepoint to interior decorating to computer software design is, or can be, creative.
And here’s the good news: your creation doesn’t have to be “ART.” No one who ever made a mud pie spent a lot of time worrying if it was good enough for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Creation is enjoyable; it feeds your passion. That’s enough. That’s a lot, in fact.
But what if you’re singing someone else’s song, or acting in someone else’s play, or reading a book someone else wrote? You didn’t create those things, someone else did.
Here’s more good news: the act of re-creation is also creation. Your interpretation of a song or role or book has never existed before. You are the only person alive who can bring your particular perspective and ability to that material. (If you’ve ever been in a book group, you know what I mean – there can be so many different and opposing points of view, I sometimes wonder if we’ve read the same book). Each time you read you are conjuring the world of the story in your mind. Each time you sing a song or act a part, even if you’ve done it before, you are creating that music or that character anew.
David Gordon, tenor soloist for the Oregon Bach Festival, used to tell himself before performing the demanding role of the Evangelist in the St. Matthew Passion – mind you, this is music that’s been around for centuries and has a following with very strong opinions as to how it should be done – I am the best Evangelist this audience is going to hear tonight. And he was right. Because he created the role afresh every night, lived it intensely. In real time. Not only that, each person in the audience, depending on their familiarity with the music, their mood, or where they were sitting, heard something different. Which means even listening can be a form of creation (by this I’m referring to active listening, not music as sonic wallpaper).
So now that we have that out of the way – what fires up your creative passion? What’s your raw material? How many ways do you create?
Now go to it – and enjoy!