You Were Born to Make Shit.

A couple weeks ago I started reading a new book by Rick Rubin called The Creative Act: A Way of Being. It's a fantastic read so far, and even though my son has taken my copy before I could finish it, I'm going to go ahead and recommend that you read it. Rubin talks in-depth about living a creative life and the need for us to remove our ego from the process so that we're fully tapped in to what he calls 'the source' – an unending supply of creative power to which every person alive has access. He breaks down the myth that creative people have innate, special abilities that make them more capable of creative genius than the rest of us.

As a creative person and a believer in the radical idea that all people have equal value and the potential to grow, change and contribute to the world until our last breath is drawn, this jibes nicely with my world view. I've written about the creative process and our need to get out of our own way when it comes to channeling our creativity here and here, so I'm already aligned with many of these ideas.

When I bring up the topic of creativity with friends, I find that we often land one of two themes:

First, we tend focus on the product(s) of creativity, or on the creators themselves (in an upsettingly idolatrous way, I think). This is often an attempt for most people to justify why they themselves aren't creating. After all, how can they, a humble software developer or a mid-level bureaucrat be expected to create art with the likes of Beyoncé or Vincent Van Gogh setting the creative bar?

I think it's important to remind ourselves that popularity is not a measure of quality. By this I mean that people who “Make it Big” in the kinds of industries that surround the arts are very lucky. Yes, they have talent, and yes they work hard. But there are millions of people who are as talented as so-called “stars” that exist all around us, and they work hard, too. To “win” at the business of making art requires a unique alchemy of being in the right place and the right time with the right people. I think it's also worth noting that the industries that support pop culture as a business invest millions of dollars into creating an illusion of greatness that we buy into because, once again, humans need idols (a topic for another time).

Furthermore, using revenue as the sole-indicator of quality or success obscures the truly valuable part of creativity - the process.

For, it is the process that keeps us creators coming back to do the work, even when we're not on bestseller lists or walking red carpets. It's the process that brings us the release we need – the scratch to an itch that compels us to express ourselves in all manner of unique and beautiful ways. It's the process that makes it possible for us to know ourselves and our world, a journey of self-discovery of which the byproduct is art. The process is what happens when the artist (and I use this as a general term for anyone engaged in the creative process) peels away the ego, opens their heart to possibility, and allows themselves to be the instrument through which creative power does its work.

The second theme where we tend to default when discussing creativity is the esoteric and spiritual nature of the creative process. Make no mistake, there is something wildly metaphysical about creation as an activity. Whether you're writing a novel, coding software, inventing a new cake recipe, or designing the landscaping of your front yard, at some point you must have experienced flow - the feeling of being 'in the zone' not even thinking, just doing what comes to you and executing flawlessly. When one finishes working like this, there's a sense of awe and fullness that can't be replicated in any other way. Ninety percent of our time as artists is spent preparing ourselves for our creativity to take hold. The other ten percent of the time we are holding on for dear life as we surrender to it, working as hard and as fast as we can in service to this higher power.

That said, our creativity isn't just some abstract concept. For our creativity to impact the world, it has to be paired with a real commitment to manifesting it outside of our own bodies and minds. This demands consistent effort, discipline, time, energy, patience and humility to keep learning. Treating creativity simply as a metaphysical impulse keeps many a creator procrastinating; waiting for the day when the Muse will visit them in a dream, and they awaken with magical powers and a fully formed award-winning project in their cupped hands. But successful artists of all stripes will tell you, there's no substitute for just showing up, sitting down, and doing the goddamn work.

Our society has strange ideas about creativity: If you're not one of the very few people on earth deemed to be 'an artist' and/or you're not making money with your creative efforts, then you shouldn't really bother. I mean, yes, you can do some crafting and shit, but that's a hobby and not to be taken too seriously.

To this I say, bullshit.

Everyone is an authentic creator. We all work with different mediums, and our respective art forms may or may not see the light of day or be credited publicly; but we are innate creators by virtue of being born human, whether or not we actively choose to exercise these abilities or develop them in a conscious way.

For the world to change – for us to evolve as a species - we need to engage the creative thinking of every human. I believe every single person on earth should be actively developing some kind of artistic or creative facet in themselves, regardless of their age, gender, or occupation. We can't leave it up to a handful of 'celebrity' artists or some special subset of humanity that we think have special abilities.

This month I'm starting my first writing class ever. I've been writing for most of my life, just winging my way through it without any formal education or training. But I realized at some point last year that if I'm not writing, I'm dying. This is an essential activity for me, and not only do I want it to be part of my life – I want to do it well. So, I'm investing in my creative self, and I hope you'll follow along on my blog as I hone my craft.

Anyway, the point is – if you've stepped away from your art (or other creative endeavor) for a while, I hope you'll take this as a sign to pick it back up again. If you have felt a creative urge but aren't really sure what to do with it, I suggest experimenting! There are no rules here, I promise. Buy some cheap art supplies and get messy. Sign up for a poetry class. Don't think about it. Creative power supersedes our thinking mind, so go with your gut. Give yourself permission to try anything that sounds fun. Then, with the enthusiasm of a kindergartner, jump in and just do it. Don't worry about if it's good. (Every artist cringes when they revisit work they did early on. Sucking is a rite of passage! Embrace it good-naturedly.)

Just keep going.

Make stuff, have fun, be human.

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