I was raised by creative parents. I don’t know if they realize this fact, nor how much it influenced my creative life. Even to this day my parents are creative. My mother is a quilter-extraordinaire. My father has done everything from stained glass and wrought iron, to photography, to knife-making. Award-winning, quality work. I’m very proud of their creative skills and grateful for the influence. I have often wished for both of them that they would have had the confidence in their craft to make it less of a hobby, and more of a lifestyle.
Living creatively means more than giving art a shot. Trying new things is important, and dabbling in creative pursuits is fulfilling in itself because the experience of learning new skills and then making something with our own hands is satisfying, even if the product isn’t exactly the quality thing we wish to make. When we dabble and fail, because as novices that’s what happens, we tend to give up and say the effort was an experiment. If we do it a few times, every now and then, we call it a hobby. Often we abandon the endeavor and move on to something else. Meanwhile, though we may harbor a little piece of creative notion about ourselves, we largely live our lives as though the arts are meant for someone else. We don’t think of ourselves as artists, we don’t act like artists, and we don’t create like artists.
Creative people have an attitude. I’ve probably said this before. And that attitude is one of defiance, and license, and of pride. For those who cannot abate this attitude the creative sensibility becomes a lifestyle. Creatives often look, talk and behave differently from “normal” people. Some of this dandyism comes from pride and ego and some of it comes from a lack of confidence that they are trying to overcome by being different. When a creative person moves from dabbling curiosity to daily living in the creative zone, their entire lifestyle becomes a resource for the creative effort. Through this evolution the true artist is manifested. In Campbell’s terms the mythology of the artist results in the real-world outcome of an artistic life. Artists create art, and there’s no stopping it once the persona is established.
A creative lifestyle is composed of many things that other lifestyles shy away from. Travel, idea and discussion, debate, creation, destruction, rebirth, change. These things take effort. They require an engaged mind and a level of energy. The will must be fully present and applied. All of creative effort is a matter of will. The work can be tedious and frustrating. Hopes can be dashed. Failure, once again, is ever-present. Few, if any, creative people who have gone on to have great success have never experienced failure. But they did not quit, because their will would not let them, nor would the calling.
Sean Penn has been credited with saying that he has written many things, and most of them haven’t gone anywhere. But by doing a lot of work he finds things that do take hold, and are successful. None of us is any different in that regard. But in order to have the energy to do all of that work, and to have a shot at that kind of result, the creative process has to be part of an entire lifestyle.
My offering today is encouragement to embrace the inner dandy. All of a person’s individual success ultimately comes down to their own effort and the will to make it happen. Theodor Herzl said “If you will it, it is no dream” (Old, New Land, 1902). The will thrives in an environment that promotes it.
So what will it be? Lifestyle or hobby? The urge to create a single story requires the will to make it happen. If one has the will to do even that much, then there is the will to create the lifestyle to support it.