On Art, Creativity, Identity, And Trusting Your Heart

being you

Creativity tends to be something as unique as a fingerprint, in that no two people, if given a creative task, such as to write a book about two runaways, or paint a crab, would churn out the same thing.

Often this is noticeable in artists who have made several works over the course of their careers, filmmakers with several films under their belt, writers who have half a shelf at home dedicated to their own books. Some of them, if their creative “touch” is particularly original, can be recognised simply from their work. For instance, Studio Ghibli films all seem to have that special something, an idyllic twinkle and exquisite artistry, which a viewer instantaneously associates with Miyazaki, and his unique vision. The same goes for writers. If you are very observant, and have read several books by one writer, you’ll often find similar imagery popping up in different books written by them, and often, if you get very familiar with them, you can pick up a book without looking at the cover and know it was written by them.

This is why, when it comes to creating Art, you can’t play copy-cat. To be a true artist, your work has to be different, and in order to be different, it has to come from within you—not without. If you’re a writer, for instance, you have to hone your craft, yes, but you also have to discover what lights up your imagination, and develop your own writing “voice”.

These are not easy things to do. As a writer just starting out—and in the profession, it is rare for even the talented and lauded to feel as though they are truly comfortable in the medium—the urge to copy is tremendous, because you grow up reading all these books, adoring all these authors who you see as idols (while their counterparts worship Taylor Swift and Beyonce, young writers genuflect before the likes of Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton), so when it comes turn to put pen to paper, oftentimes their voices, and their stories, spill out instead of your own. Eventually, however, you must write your own stories, in your own voice, as imitation does not a career make. In essence, all the places are already taken; the only spot left is your own, and it is there for the taking, if you’ll put in the effort and the time.

There are many ways to do this. It helps to have a very clear, good sense of self, as that means your personality is stronger, and the more stronger a personality the more easily it expresses itself through Art. This is especially true for writers, who are eternally drilled on the importance of developing their own voice. I, myself, struggle with this a great deal. To be honest, half the time, being so introverted, it is hard to determine whether I even have a personality. Other times it feels as though my personality changes, depending on the weather, or the day, or my mood. I feel like a cypher, ready to be filled by whatever comes my way, whatever strikes my fancy, and though this might be a good trait in an actress, it is anything but for a writer. Often, in one piece, my voice will alter two or three times. Even on this blog, I feel as though I haven’t developed a true “voice”–though, from my viewpoint, it can be hard to tell.

I liken it to my writing having multiple personality disorder, and so far, treatment has been difficult, and tiresome. I have come across some techniques, however, ranging from not thinking too much as my pen scrawls on the page so that whatever comes out is pure and undiluted, and writing the words as I would speak them to a friend, or at least an imaginary one. The best solution for problems like this is to write a great deal, write reams and reams; then, eventually, your writing voice will have no choice but to surface.

Writing on subjects from your own heart is far easier. All you have to do is create what you would like to consume—in other words, if you’re a writer, to write what you would like to read. In my experience that is the single best way to locate just exactly what excites you, and gets your creative juices flowing. You are the substance flowing through the filter to create the Art; whatever is inside you, will be inside the Art, too, and if there is something within you you don’t want spilling out, then you better figure out what it is and unplug the blockage. Art is the most pure expression of the self: no room for shame or concealment allowed. So perhaps another way to develop your writing voice is merely to figure out just why, exactly, you’re trying to hide behind a voice not your own, and to fix that.

I mean, it’s tricky, none of it is the least bit easy. As a writer, or any artist, you are basically a professional daydreamer, and when anything becomes professional, even something as fun as daydreaming, it gets hard. It becomes work, and no-one likes to work. When it comes to something like a writing, a lot of components come into play, and though a lot of it is craft and practice, a lot of it is innate ability, too. Characters appear out of the blue, speaking and thinking, certain scenes just “feel” right, and some writers even speak of their books as being pre-existing artifacts, which must be dug out from some ether or other realm, over the course of slow, painstaking months. Sometimes, you’ll read a book, and it will feel so right, so true, it’s almost like reading something you’ve seen and experienced, that actually exists, no matter how fantastical and strange the premise. That, I think, is when you are encountering true Art. There is always an element of magic to it—call it what you will, God, the Muse, or just two disparate ideas fusing together to make something new—and that is what makes it fun, even when it’s not.

Creation is not something you can do using the mind alone. Heart plays a very big role, heart, and intuition, that inner sense of knowing, inexplicable to everyone but yourself; and to trust your heart, to trust the bursts of excitement and joy when you encounter something, even if it is too strange or impractical, is something I think everyone can apply to their lives, not just artists.

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