Creativity



Creativity is Your Birthright

How Friends and Family Convince Us Not to Create

By Dave Storer | Updated July 7, 2018


There are other forces at work in our immediate social circle of family, friends, and co-workers that often stop us from creating. These include various "attitudes" that such people aim at us, including:


The "Puritan Work Ethic" Attitude

This attitude suggests that we must work very hard every waking hour of our lives (except on Sundays), but more to the point, there's the added suggestion that work can't be fun. There would seem to be something immoral about loving your job, not to mention spending a significant part of your life deep in the "play" of creating. My wife once heard someone say, "My brother hasn't worked in thirty years. He's a sculptor." Rodney Dangerfield got more respect than the average, truly hard working artist.


The "Work Must Pay" Attitude

This is the attitude that the only possible benefit from acting on our creative urges should be monetary, or "If you can't sell it for a lot of money, then what's the point of doing it at all?"

As I'm sure many of you already know, if you tell a stranger that you're an artist or writer, most likely the first thing they'll ask you is how much money you've made doing it, or where have you been published or displayed that they might have seen? This perception is deeply embedded in our culture and ignores the many huge personal rewards of creating that have nothing to do with money, as well as the fact that every art form requires a very long apprenticeship before the artist can come anywhere close to being paid good money or appearing in a widely circulating form. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it takes many years to be an overnight success. But our culture seems to forget that, which puts undue pressure on beginners and even intermediate level artists to feel they need to succeed, long before they should even be thinking about it.


The "What Kind of a Thing is that to Do?" Attitude

It can be very hard to maintain your identity as an artist if you embark on a pursuit that seems completely alien to your friends or family. This is partially why many successful people in many fields simply come from families who've been doing the same thing for a long time. For example, star quarterbacks are often the sons of football coaches, stockbrokers spawn stockbrokers, artists spawn artists and writers spawn writers — Martin Amis, the Cheever family, the Fondas and Douglas's, and others.

This is more than chance, and more than genetics. It's cultural. If your family values art and self-expression highly; if there are successful people creating all around you as you grow up, modeling every day the skills and attitudes needed to succeed in art, you will be much more inclined to think you have the "right" to do it, and you'll probably get a lot of good help and encouragement along the way.

For example, consider how Jane Yolen described her support, in her wonderful book for writers, Take Joy:

When I was growing up, I thought all adults were writers. My father was a journalist, my mother a short story writer. Their friends were all authors, and my father was president of the Overseas Press Club. More writers. We lived first in New York City, then in Westport, Connecticut. Even more writers. If I thought about adults at all, I thought of them as writers. Of course I knew there were teachers and doctors and librarians and butchers (this was a long time ago!) Those were their everyday jobs. But at home, late at night, I knew all those grownups were scribbling away.

It came as quite a shock to me to discover, rather late in my elementary school life, that most adults were actively afraid of writing.

Don't we all wish we were raised in such a family and social circle? How much more comfortable might we feel in our creative skins?


Next: How We Convince Ourselves Not to Create

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