Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Creativity, Cynicism & the Comets Inside

"Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist when one grows up."  
To remain an artist when grown up - well,  that requires courage, determination and  an almost constant child-like state of viewing the world; one of enthusiasm, awe,  an insatiable curiousity and an indestructible belief in magic.  

Most creatives are of the opinion that our inner artist self is an inner child. 'The Artist's Way' by Julia Cameron, the hugely popular and seminal text on creativity, strongly advances this theory. We must treat our artist self as a child, a child who looks at things anew and not with cynicism, who wants nothing more than to be let loose to experiment and express their love for the world and to have fun in the process.  (Read more here)

Also, to be an artist is to challenge reality. To challenge its artifice trappings and iron-bar rules and routines and imprisoning of imagination. To rebel aginst them, refuse them and reach beyond. To believe that everything isn't simple black and white 2D; that there is something more; that beneath the surface of things there beats many multi-coloured heartbeats, a kaleidoscope of imaginings unfurling and swirling colours of every hue, shapes of every reckoning, possibilities and viewpoints and meanings and layers upon layers of love and beauty that make up this 3D thing called life. 

To be an artist is to have access to this world within our world, to be blessed with the ability to transcribe it somehow, in paint, pen, music or many varied ways. To put the pulse in our 'living', to rupture routine with revelations and set fire to banalities with the truth of existence - that life is to be enjoyed not endured, a wonderland not a worryland.
Now I don't mean to sound all hippy-chick psychedelic far-out babbling, but creativity is far out. Far out from the rigmarole of routine and  reality, but not from each one of us. Not from our grasp. It's just been forgotton and laid aside by most of us in favour of more 'grown-up' things like materialism, status and security. 
And I'm writing this as a sort of affirmation for unfortunately I am in the shadows of disillusion  right now. I am just about sick of the attitude I encounter that creative pursuits are a waste of time, a la-de-dah hobby affair and not a full-hearted soul commitment. And I am getting tired of battling cynicism in my everyday environment. Cynicism and disillusion on all fronts and a great big blank ennui cast over the place like a dark toxic mushroom cloud suffocating any sign of life beneath it. It throws me in the doldrums at times, it really does.  

But I battle on against it, like all we creatives do. Tooth and nail and brick-by-brick goddammit. Battle against the slate-grey attitudes of people who believe in practicality first and foremost, the debunking of dreams, and the erasing of wonder, the stalemate that afflicts most of humankind, at some stage or other, but especially at present, especially where I am.

And just when it all seems hopeless, a handful of stars blow my way, proof of the great creative constellation I map my way by. I just happened to stumble upon this extract last night, from a young adult novel 'Boy's Life' by American author Robert Mc Cammon, which featured as a voiceover on one of my favourite TV shows 'One Tree Hill.' It's a coming-of-age story but from all accounts (I've been excessively googling), beautifully written and underpinned with a sense of creative 'magic'. The narrator, a young boy, who writes stories to get to grips with the world, and the whole book seems to focus on creativity and how it enchants, to those of us who embrace it, our view of the world. The adults are as always the bad guys, the cynics who belittle and cast aside the power of creativity in favour of the rigours and structure of routine.  This extract is truly wonderful. It zings and sparks and sends stars shooting up my spine everytime I read it. Goosebumps. Those wonderful tremors of truth. Look, read and believe:
"You know, I do believe in magic. I was born and raised in a magic time, in a magic town, among magicians. Oh, most everybody else didn’t realize we lived in that web of magic, connected by silver filaments of chance and circumstance. But I knew it all along. When I was twelve years old, the world was my magic lantern, and by its green spirit glow I saw the past, the present and into the future. You probably did too; you just don’t recall it. 

See, this is my opinion: we all start out knowing magic. We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand. But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.
After you go so far away from it, though, you can’t really get it back. You can have seconds of it. Just seconds of knowing and remembering. When people get weepy at movies, it’s because in that dark theater the golden pool of magic is touched, just briefly. Then they come out into the hard sun of logic and reason again and it dries up, and they’re left feeling a little heartsad and not knowing why. When a song stirs a memory, when motes of dust turning in a shaft of light takes your attention from the world, when you listen to a train passing on a track at night in the distance and wonder where it might be going, you step beyond who you are and where you are. For the briefest of instants, you have stepped into the magic realm.  –'Boy’s Life' – Robert Mc Cammon

There you have it, a little piece of magic, a handful of stars, discovered by serendipity. The opening of a portal to a part of ourselves I'd almost lost sight of. A ta-da poof of proof when I needed it most  A remembrance and a reaffirmation, and a rebuke - to all those sceptics and naysayers and their black clouds.  

The lines have since embroidered themselves in gold in my heart, especially: "We are born with whirlwinds, forest fires, and comets inside us. We are born able to sing to birds and read the clouds and see our destiny in grains of sand." We are.  Our creativity is the consequence of this magic. It's our way back to that 'magic realm.' We are all entitled to honour it. 

No more disillusion and cynicism. Just a little flare of this magic would flame everything back into potential and possibility again, I'm sure of it. 

So that's what I'm going to focus on now. And see if I can spark the flint of everyday life  into the flames of art again, to sustain and nourish and warm the cold cynics out there (including the one hiding in some dark corner of my mind, planted there by reality...) And to convince myself again that this is worth it, that there is a magic in all of this that's worth fighting for. And as the anti-dote to my current doldrum drear - that I do believe it all, I do, I do, I do.

Keep creating,

~ Siobhán.

*This blog was soundtracked by: 

'Show Me What I'm Looking For'- Carolina Liar  (the search for something more...)
'Back When You Were Good' - The Hours  (reclaiming a better self...)
'Bring on the Comets' - VHS or Beta  (enthusiasm and high-thrills of possibilities...)
'Wake Up'- Arcade Fire (spine-tingling accompaniment to the trailer for 'Where the Wild Things Are', the movie of the book about growing up but never losing your childhood wonder and imagination...)

Check them out!

pics from www.weheartit.com as always, :-)


  1. What a great piece on creativity, and the magic within!

  2. Thanks! We all have it, it's just a matter of recognising it...


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