Does this sound like you:
You don’t think you’re creative.
You love to create, but you don’t think you’re particularly talented.
You don’t want the people in your life to judge your creative vulnerability, so you hide it.
If you were not concerned about these things and felt free to explore and express yourself freely, what would you do? What would you create? What story would you tell and how would you tell it?
This sounds so much like me it’s scary. I was literally having this conversation with JJ a couple of weeks ago. I talked about it a little already, but I’m going to lay it out in full here just because the overlap between what I said and this prompt literally sent chills down my spine. (Bolded text below represents emphasis added for the purposes of this post.)
Me: i used to want to write things.
i have a probably terrible half-written fantasy novel at home somewhere
my friend [SH] and i were writing it in like middle/early high school
but i sort of abandoned that when i started getting into poetry
[enter the terrible poetry years of 2006-2009 or so]
and then i sort of abandoned poems for blog posts
and now i just read way more than i write
i think i feel more talented at essays than i do at any form of creative writing
for a long time i thought i’d do the phd —> professor —> books route
but i’m not about either of the first two of those things anymore
but for most of my childhood/adolescence, i wanted to be a writer when i grew up. that’s what i used to tell people.
JJ: you could still write books if you wanted.
Me: eh, not the kinds i imagined? i can publish papers though
[my company] publishes shit all the time
i’ve even been on some small things already
and we present at conferences and stuff
so that could be cool?
we very much run in academic circles without *being academics *
JJ: does that satisfy you?
Me: i’m not sure?
i’ve dabbled in different forms of creativity my whole life
but not a one has ever stuck
i used to write stories. i used to write poems. i used to play instruments. i used to sing. i used to act.
i used to do a lot of claywork in like middle school
i used to draw and paint and make pottery
but i don’t feel particularly talented in any of those realms?
JJ: now is such a good time to hone
youre already a formidable writer
thats how im feeling right now
i know i have skills to varying degrees in different areas
when it comes to writing
but i wanna get sharper
we have so much time
even as it ticks
Me: Idk which of the things I used to do would still make me happy? Also some of them aren’t really that practical, like acting and playing in a band and stuff. I took a pottery class last winter and it was kind of cool but also really expensive.
same thing with painting as like a recreational activity irl
writing is free, haha, but idk, i stopped feeling like i have fiction in me a long time ago. [MH] and [BD] and then [MJ] were always trying to get me to write a one-act for BAC Drama, and i just never had any ideas.
essays i feel like i’m pretty good at, but lol what a weird hobby. and i don’t think i’d want to try to write professionally?
idk i’m rambling
JJ: essays are dope
so much of my diet is essays
Me: *never ever reads essays *
Me: iono what i want. having some Thing I Am Passionate About would be awesome. I just don’t know how to figure out what that is?
i feel boring
JJ: youre not tho
you do dope shit all the time
Me: I’m glad you think so
JJ: and you write about your experiences in a way thats accessible to others
just cause you feel like it
whats cooler than that
so many people tryna reach that point, myself included
Me: but i’ve been talking about me for yearsss
it’ll be 5 years very soon
it’s not exciting the way it used to be. it’s sorta just a thing i do without thinking about it.
and recently it’s sorta just become me talking about my relationships and idk how i feel about that
the rest of my life got all stable tho
JJ: what you have is a developed skill
you could always apply that skill somewhere else, if you desire
or start sharpening a new tool
but how your talking about your blog is how i wanna talk about a lot of shit
its like a basketball player talking about their jumper
its second nature
developed skills allow you to do so much
Me: we think about so many things in such radically different ways, you and me
i think i would like to get back to a place where i feel like my blog is doing interesting work
i think i felt that way once
i’d at least convinced myself that i felt that way
JJ: completely doable
Me: I don’t feel like it’s doing anything now.
JJ: you need something to challenge you
We then talked about some of the topics I’ve been largely focused on lately, namely him/our relationship and poly things generally, and what other kinds of things I would like to talk about or have talked about in the past. I’m just going to pull the parts from this section that I think are noteworthy.
Me: if what i’m doing is talking about my life and the things that are on my mind a lot or that i’m trying to figure out
then yeah that’s pretty much what it’s gonna be about these days because everything else is pretty stable?
i feel like more things used to be going on in my life
but most of that is probably just the difference between in-college blogging and post-college blogging?
idk what else i would/could be writing about these days
this isn’t to say that i don’t like talking about you. talking about you is awesome because you‘re awesome and the fact that you‘re okay with me talking about us is awesome.
but it’s just a little monochromatic?
i think you should open it up
you have feels about a lot of stuff
its just a matter of being open to expressing those
JJ: it’s your world
Me: I knowwww
but idk what to put in it
Me: i think the heart of it is that i started my blog as, like, a place to figure myself out
and i feel like i’ve resolved a lot of the issues i was trying to figure out then
and so now i guess it needs a new…reason for being
a direction, as you put it earlier
but at the same time a direction feels weird because i’ve always sort of just let it be whatever? if it has a direction, is it about my life anymore?
JJ: it can be multiple things
you wanna still talk about poly stuff as that’s a theme that runs through your life
but what if something did go down in the news that made you feel ways and it was something you were interested in
couldnt it be that to
couldnt it be you and your directions
even as youre figuring them out
without having to be beholden to any one particular thing?
So all of that was to say that these are questions that have been on my mind recently. I think my creativity and the ways in which it’s been lacking in the past couple of years has been a running theme through these challenge posts. I went out with a girl I know from college on Saturday, to a lovely little place called Color Me Mine, where you can select a piece of pottery and paint it however you want. I made this mug:
While we were there, I chatted with her about how it’s a shame we don’t get to do things like this very often as adults. As children, so much of our time is dedicated to making art: color books, Play-Doh, art class as a part of the curriculum in elementary and middle schools. In high school I graduated to creative writing and graphic design classes. All the while I was also in band and choir. Adolescence is just chock full of creative outlets. And then once you graduate from undergrad, it all just stops. Unceremoniously.
Suddenly you can’t dance without being a dancer, or act without being an actress. Creativity can so easily become sort of all or nothing — be an artist or don’t make art. I want to find ways to break that binary. I want to paint more mugs. When I have the disposable income for it, I would like to take wheel-based pottery classes, or a class to learn the basics of sketching.
I don’t think of this blog as a space in which I am creative. I’m not sure if that’s an attitude that needs fixing. Writing is, at its most basic, an act primarily dedicated to creating something out of nothing, so I suppose that blogging could be called an act of creativity, but telling my own stories doesn’t always feel quite like storytelling. I don’t have a clear audience or a reason for sharing this piece of myself, besides the basic fact that I want to live out in the open. This blog feels like documentation rather than creation, like I am keeping records of where and what and who my thoughts and I have been. My life is the creative process attached to it.
I used to write in more creative ways. The form of creative writing that stuck with me the longest was poetry. I tell myself that blogging was why I stopped poet-ing — the way the words came out of me changed. I think there is truth to that statement, but I think that another truth lies underneath it. In some ways, taking creative writing at Princeton intimidated me out of poetry. I was surrounded by so many people who wrote so well, who could discuss theory and movement and dedicated so much thought to the placement and sound and significance of individual words and lines, and I didn’t feel like that person. My own words felt dull and too straightforward in their midst. Now I go to slam shows and I think to myself, “I could never do that.” Not here, not among these people. I performed my poetry in small town, New Jersey, where I was a sparkling big fish in a tiny pond.
In those classes, I also began to criticize my poetry for not sounding like it was written by a Black woman — I couldn’t find ways to make it feel like my race and gender showed through in my poetic voice, and that prompted comments from my professors and doubt from myself. I didn’t sound like I wanted to sound, or like I thought I should sound. I didn’t know how to carry my identities over onto the page. Maintaining this space lets me round out my aesthetic much more easily — my Blackness and my womanness aren’t at the forefront of every single post, but I like to think that my identity as an overall theme of the blog makes those parts of me palpable in this space. If I were going to try to write creatively again, I would need to find a way to develop a complex enough voice to feel as though I am adequately representing myself while I talk about things that are universal.
Maybe that’s a thing I should be working on anyway…