This past week I met an artist who told me one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard: I don’t make the same art I consume.
She told me if I visited her house I'd see it decorated completely differently than her work.
“I’m not into that sort of look but I can’t help being who I am," she said.
The words were so close. I know I lost my way the minute I graduated further into my career. As a gut check, it’s an easy assumption to re-create the things you enjoy. It’s a logical part of wanting to make something other people will like. And that’s the problem right there. It’s a reverse process that clogs what’s inside of you.
You won’t be original
Until she said it, I never considered it perfectly logical or normal to express whatever is inside regardless of how different that is from what I myself enjoy consuming. No wonder I haven't been coming up with anything fresh or original. This whole time I’ve been stubbornly trying to create the kinds of things I like and judging my creativity against its potential popularity.
Your creativity does not owe you a living
Liz Gilbert has an entire book dedicated to driving this point home: your art owes you nothing. Your art is an innocent creative spirit inside you. When you criticize it, it won’t come out to play. What will come out is a watered down version of what everyone else has already made. You definitely won’t make a living because it won’t feel real or compelling, and you will not be fulfilled.
It doesn’t have to be so black and white
Much like the artist, what comes out of my mind is a bit freaky. It’s nothing like what I consume. I can sit and watch a great documentary or I can read an entertainment magazine, but what I express when I create is always layered in struggle and the search for something deeper. There’s never an upbeat, pithy dialogue that mirrors my personality. It’s always a inner observance of life. I’ve never been able to make sense of the disparity between the two, and maybe the problem is that I tried.
Its clear the answer has never been to organize my tastes and perceptions into one holistic package. In my streamlining quest of synching everything up according to measurable goals, the art got lost. I forgot human beings are complex. I forgot we cannot be one thing, we are the combination of many things; memories from our childhood, pieces of the people that have passed through our lives, the good and bad experiences we've had over time. Our creativity, much like ourselves, does not need to fit into a box or justify itself.