I always blink whenever I hear someone say, ‘Oh, I’m not very creative.’ We’re all creative. Sure, some of us enjoy being spectators more than playing the showoff, but we all express ourselves creatively, whether that’s in secret scribblings, or making patchwork masterpieces, magicking up feasts, dancing a mean tango, crafting a piece of furniture from wood you’ve turned yourself. That treasured thing you do requiring skill, imagination and love that can only come from you and no-one else.
Maybe this reticence to admit to our own creativity comes from an idea that only things of artistic value are truly worth acknowledging. Which always makes me wonder: what is art? There are as many definitions of that word, it seems, as there are expressions of creativity. Who decides what art is anyway? Well, usually vested interests – duh. Not so much gate-keepers of our culture as people with mortgages and overblown credit cards who, creative in their own ways, are compelled to justify their jobs as curators, publishers, critics and commentators, however they must.
I have to try to remember to forget all that crap about worthy and unworthy art myself or I’d never write another word. It’s crushing to pour yourself into something and have others dismiss it as rubbish. It’s hideous to put yourself out there knowing that someone will sneer and say you have no taste and no purpose. They might not do it to your face, but rest assured, some self-appointed arbiter of all good things will say you’re a waste of oxygen. Which all makes the definition of ‘artist’ quite easy. The artist is the one who says in return, ‘Stuff you, Joe Blow, I’m doing it anyway.’ Or has a nervous breakdown. I’ve done both in my time, on occasion all at once.
If the artist is the one who persists, who is fired by curiosity and love to keep going deeper, keep burnishing that treasured thing, despite knockbacks, setbacks and little financial reward, then that’s me, or at least that’s what I try to be. And in one way or another it is, I suspect, most of us. But most of all, whatever it is you do to bring your treasure to the table, however large or small, it is always a good thing to do. As the American writer Kurt Vonnegut said so perfectly:
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something (from his essay collection, A Man Without a Country, 2005).
Who is anyone to nay say that? No-one.
Be bold then. Feel the wind in your hair as your heart races with joy and fear. Do it. Live.
Like this fellow in the photograph above. He’s called Frog Extraordinaire, created by sculptors Stewart Caldwell and Mark Oates, and he sits on the Mitchell Highway outside the scrap metal yard he presently calls home at Molong. Who says the Central West is not a premier centre of artistic excellence, hm? Whatever, I doubt Mr Frog gives a flying tricycle.
(For more info on the work of Caldwell and Oates go here http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2011/03/08/3158040.htm or contact the scrap metal yard at Molong direct.)