It ain’t easy. I want to create, I want to make amazing and touching and wondrous art every day, live a life of endless and boundless creativity – that’s what I tell myself.
It is so much easier to tell yourself that than to actually do it, to actually live it, isn’t it?
Case in point: I was telling myself that I wanted to live a creative life a long time before I began actually living it, even to the mixed and mediocre extent I have achieved so far. I’ve been telling myself this, when I managed to have the presence of mind to think of it, for maybe half of my life. And, to give credit where credit is due, I did spend much of that time creating: Composing music, drawing, programming, etcetera. But, to me, that was always practice. I was creating only to get closer to the life I wanted to live: Not to live it.
When would that transition come? When would I leap from practicing to doing, from learning to be an artist to being an artist?
Lies like that have expiration dates. One can only pretend they’re an amazing diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered for so long before it becomes clear that, if something was going to happen, it would have happened by now. Most diamonds in the rough stay in the rough. It does no good to wait to be discovered, polished, presented: If we wish to be seen, we must discover, polish, and present ourselves.
It ain’t easy.
Here’s the thing: It’s so much easier to create if you’re creating to practice than if you’re trying to create something grand and meaningful. It’s so much easier to make something if failing to do so makes you, not a failure, but a student. It’s so much easier to frame your work such that completion is just frosting on the cake of learning.
Here’s the other thing: At some point, you need to realize that your creations have a life of their own. At some point, you need to realize that you are creating works of meaning and relevance, if only to yourself. At some point, you need to realize that you are an artist, and already living a life of creativity.
These two facets of the creative life jostle for control, but only if you hold both at once can you create. Each piece is both the finished product and the experience of creating it. You are an artist, but you never stop being the student either.
But it ain’t easy.
Once you decide that you want to make something of importance and meaning, it’s easy to freeze up. It’s easy to be paralyzed by questions: “What is important?” “Will this be important to anyone but me?” “How do I communicate this?” – or by doubts: “Why would anyone care about my view of the world?” “Everything interesting to say has already been said…” “I’ll never get this right!”
It’s easy to never create anything at all. To stop, having never begun. To give up, having never fought.
This is why I am so grateful for Problem Machine and the audience it has found. I created the machine and declared it important to myself: I crafted an obligation to create, because without making creation a responsibility, a tenet of one’s existence, it’s quite easy to never create at all. And, having begun pulling at this string, I am amazed at what’s coming out: I’ve written things I am incredibly proud of here, but more than that starting this blog has given me the leverage I need to shift my life into one of creativity. When I say I will do something, I am no longer saying it to myself. When I am telling bits of story, fragments of ideas, I am no longer talking to myself, but a vast and many-faced audience, and even if sometimes they merely hear my ideas and offer no response that, still, is something.
I am being heard. I am communicating, rather than ruminating.
When I have a menial task I need to complete, like, say, cleaning a room, one of my tactics for doing so is to put the problem directly in my path so I need to do something about it or be constantly irritated by it. A stack of dirty laundry in the corner is easy to ignore; one in front of the door, much less so. This blog is the creative equivalent of the same. Creative work is in my path, now, and it has to be done before I can get on with my life.
Though there’s always a part of me that struggles, that feels unready to write, that whines and procrastinates, I’ve stuck with it. Though I won’t need it forever, for now, Problem Machine is the cornerstone of my creativity, the first and greatest of my creative obligations.
This obligation has freed me.
I am so grateful.
But still: It ain’t easy, and it never will be.
So few things worth doing are.