There’s no arguing that creativity can be a messy, confusing process no matter what it is you’re into. Something I’ve found to be just as if not more frustrating than actually doing the work is trying to explain the thing that you’re doing to people who don’t really want to understand.
If you are one of these people — whether you make candles, poetry, miniature train sets or play violin at the local train station — chances are you’ve had to explain yourself to someone who doesn’t understand, or someone who sees creative thinking as a frivolous pastime. It’s incredibly frustrating to have people ask when they don’t really care, or already have a preconceived idea about how you live or spend your time. Creativity isn’t just an excuse for creative people to sit back and allow everyone else to slog out the 9-5 while we, the throng of creative do-nothings, roll naked down a grassy hill.
As a person with my creepy skeleton fingers in many weird-tasting pies, I’ve received the dismissive comments about what I do many times, and for a while it stressed me out so much that I just stopped telling people. Meeting new people left me with heart palpitations and boob sweat because I knew at least a third of the encounter would be me trying to explain myself, as if I was apologising for doing something that brings me so much enjoyment.
Between writing, ceramics, and making jewellery out of oven-hardening clay, the response I receive quite often is the same variation of “Oh, you do (insert creative skill)? – that must be nice, to have so much time on your hands …” or when people half-heartedly asking how my “little writing projects” are coming along as they stare off into the distance wistfully noting that they don’t even have time to paint their nails anymore. I just didn’t see the point in putting myself through that, until I started answering these half-hearted questions so honestly and with as much confidence as I could gather that people either stopped giving me the not-so-subtle put down or I just didn’t care what they thought because I was doing the work that was fulfilling and exciting for me.
I sound like I’m oversimplifying the solution if I say to ‘just stop caring’. But really, I just stopped giving a shit what everyone else thinks of me/my work, and it sounds brutal but I honestly don’t think a lot of people care what anyone else is doing, and that’s alright. When you consider how wrapped up everyone is in their own problems and how little time they spend thinking/talking about you, it just makes it a lot easier to stop worrying. Just be ridiculously excited about what you’re doing, let everyone know about it if they dare to ask, and if they’re dismissive or condescending – that’s cool, just don’t waste your time having any sort of similar conversation with them again.
As Chuck Wendig notes in his blog post 25 Things You Should Know About Creativity, he’s devised the perfect way to deal with the “Oh, how creative” mindset:
“Hey, fuck those people. Fuck ‘em because they don’t grok the fact that creativity is what makes this whole human race not just function, but evolve.”
I’m not suggesting that creativity is the cure-all for everything screwed up in the world, but I just think that those who think that creative people don’t work hard or don’t ‘grind’ as much as everyone else are being ridiculous. Everyone works hard. A lot of people work multiple jobs and still come home with swollen ankles and do their dance practice, or spend nights painting while the kids sleep. Even if it makes no money, if it goes nowhere in the eyes of others, and it’s something you would do regardless and it makes you happy – I think that means you should definitely fucking do it irrespective of what everyone else might think.