Creative Environment – Where’s Your Head At?

Yes, I can see the responses now to my former post. But I’m a successful creative person! Blah, blah, blah. If you’re fortunate enough to have had a stable and accepting environment in which to grow up mentally, physically and creatively, then great; the forces of home managed to counteract the compliant forces of school. You will have creatively matured earlier and had many years to cultivate your skill, and have reached middle age thinking yes, I made the right decision when I was younger. Good for you. I am sincerely very happy for you. Also some may argue they didn’t have anywhere near the kind of environment described above but yet still consider themselves a successful creative person. Great! Even better. Your will is strong through either arrogance or bullheadedness, or both (typical attributes of successful creatives), or a motivation beyond my comprehension. But some people aren’t as lucky with their lot. There are many reasons for this: some through classical and instrumental conditioning, some circumstantial, some genetic, mostly subjective, some just plain bad timing.

For most people the stark fact that pervades is at the age of 16 you cannot afford to construct your ultimate creative environment. You don’t have your own stability financially or emotionally so you must rely on others. This mad panic to not only get the hell out of school as quickly as possible as well as choose your career for the next 45 years, or longer, leave home, shag lots, get drunk, take drugs, learn what a washing machine is, how to hydrate a Pot Noodle, make uniformly thoughtful and insightful pieces of work to be submitted to a higher power for analysis and critique is bloody ridiculous! How can a person be expected to do all this in any meaningful way within the space of four or five years? No wonder the majority bugger it all up and end up stacking shelves in Sainsbury’s or any other uninspiring income generating position one can lay one’s barely developed hands on. Yet more sapping of creativity; less reason to even bother.

So what can be done? There’s no doubt that getting into the creative mood is easier when you have no distractions and little to worry about. Successful creatives have more than just talent, they have support. Financial support, mental support, day to day menial task support, encouragement, support from those with skills they don’t necessarily have. They have access to tools and resources, and the means to acquire them. They are surrounded by a network of people and circumstances that allows them to focus on their creative output. Most of us don’t have that. Most of us have exactly the opposite: bills to pay, low incomes, social obligations, psychological barriers of doubt and low self esteem. Even now at the age of 34 I haven’t got my creative environment right.

If you haven’t got where you want to be creatively, it’s okay. You are not a failure!

Mentally I think the most creative time of our lives occurs before the age of 13 and after the age of, say, 45, or whenever you’re in a stable situation, i.e. with home, stuff for your home, a job to pay for it, savings that allow you freedom time wise, life is ticking along. But I am stereotyping, which is really what I am ranting against here! We are lead to believe by society that certain things must be done by a certain age: successful career, family, car, biannual holiday. Why? To me these things are just distractions. Things to make you feel you belong to a wider group. To make you feel calmer, that you’re doing okay because you’re doing the same as next door. And if you don’t do these things then you are somehow strange, weird, ill, or an outsider. Good! That’s just how I like it. I don’t want to be constrained by children, by family obligation, telling me how I should behave, the things I should do. Although sometimes I do worry about it, but that’s just a sign of low self-esteem in the face of social conformity and acceptance. Easily countered with good food, lots of exercise and plenty of good friends and wine. This is part of my internal creative environment. My mental environment if you like. It is necessary in order for me to feel the need to create, and it is necessary for me to physically create.

Just to make things clear, I am defining a ‘successful creative’ as someone who manages to make a living out of their chosen art form; the person who sees their job as also their hobby; those who achieve what it is they wish to achieve rather than what a company/outside entity wishes them to achieve. This is the person who doesn’t feel the will to live being sucked out of them day by day whilst trying very hard to really care about another generic entity’s personal fortune. One who doesn’t just operate via the mantra ‘I do work just to get paid and therefore survive.’

Having cleared that up in my head I realise how fake all my achievements up to now have been. Achievements in the eyes of others are all they are. Those that I personally see as achievements are only now being recognised by me, let alone anyone else. And they have struggled to get out for many years. Yes, I participate in the day to day drudgery of working to live, but at least I’m no longer living to work in a job that takes up all my energy (most of the time), is of no interest, no personal mental gain, no achievement other than conformity and a pay slip. I work to live, I work to fund the things I, myself, want to achieve, whatever those things may be. I still have limits financially, but the balance is amiable. I am no longer committing a slow suicide in the name of impersonal commercial success. Age is the only thing against all those things I have yet to want to achieve.

So here’s an idea, just for future reference, and idealism. Why don’t we educate children in the reading, writing, etc, the basic stuff up to the age of 11, and then let them go? Parents should then be responsible for their own child’s education. Education of life. If, as per my previous post, we are taught how to understand our psych, how people learn, how to be human when we’re at school then we should be fully qualified to take on this task. And it should be the responsibility of the parent to do this! This should be what parenting is about! Education should be personal. So let’s have an array of subjects on offer for the child, along with the parent, to choose from so they can personalise their learning. For example, Johnny could take a six month course in botanical science at the age of 12, then another six months in astrophysics, then two courses running consecutively, say, English literature and algebra. Whatever he’s interested in. Whatever will make Johnny be Johnny. All this backed up by parental support and stimulation via home schooling packs provided by the course. But ultimately Johnny takes responsibility for himself, for his learning, based on what he actually wants to learn! At the end of it all Johnny will turn out to be a fully fledged individual human with knowledge and skills personal to only him which he can combine to create a life long fiscally and mentally profitable career. He can carry on doing as many courses as he likes, at whatever age he likes, whenever he feels it’s needed. He may take a job at McDonalds whilst he is fulfilling himself individually, but mentally he is challenged, awake, alive! He will probably think up something to pay the bills through his learned skills until he reaches the place he calls his creative home. He is celebrated for being him, by him, by society, and only he is responsible, with a great deal of support from his parents, just as they were.

A common theme seems to be recurring here, that of responsibility. Our nanny state cuddles all small humans to its breast and virtually snatches the child away from the parent at birth. Some parents seem perfectly happy with this situation, allowing their children to be brought up and educated by complete strangers, whilst the child’s desperately trying to hang on to the little semblance of reason consisting of the fact it was born to this one person but now isn’t the responsibility of that person. The lesson learnt: you don’t have to take responsibility for your actions or the consequences of those actions. Sound familiar?

Within this current societal orb though we must persist with the system that constrains us, but whether we get our kicks from servicing others, calculating fiscal projections, or making uniform dry yet soggy burgers, or whether we live just for the weekend while the week days melt into one, we can be responsible for our own mental and physical creative environment if we can only believe that we are capable of doing so.

“If we come back to truth, the truth is about if we could only understand each other’s truths a little better and see where we’re all coming from the world would be a much better place, and if we can mouth stuff about love and yet reject and condemn others for what they believe then I think we don’t understand the meaning of the word love. We haven’t got anywhere near to this yet.” – Anglican Deaconess


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