Creativity is a person

Henry James puts it best: ‘To live in the world of creation — to get into it and stay in it — to frequent it and haunt it — to think intently and fruitfully – to woo combinations and inspirations into being by a depth and continuity of attention and meditation — this is the only thing — and I neglect it, far and away too much; from indulgence, from vagueness, from inattention, and from a strange nervous fear of letting myself go. If I vanquish that nervousness, the world is mine.”

That place where the world is ‘yours’ isn’t exactly as easy to get to as just focusing on it. It’s more like open-heart surgery with soup ladles. It’s a little barbaric at times. It’s a gnawing kind of pain, when you can’t find your way into or out of the creative process within. The truth is, it can get ugly in there.

But in polite society our creativity should be served up neat and tidy, like a lady’s gin and tonic after  dinner. Creativity is enjoyed by everyone–universally, from living rooms to dark theatres–and yet, try to be creative, just go and try to be genuinely–uniquely–creative amidst people that do not value where their art comes from or whence it goes when they are done with it.

Go on. I dare you.

Right. Who are we kidding here? Creators are often vilified in our society.  Treated like second-class citizens. Wild cards. Loony. Dangerous. Unreliable. Cantankerous. Catalyst’s for chaos. Bohemian. Maybe even a little dirty. Suspicious sexual predilections. But worst of all they are highly unpredictable.

“Oh, c’mon now, we don’t think that. We love creative types!”

Sure you do. I hear it in the way you say ‘artsy-fartsy’. I hear it in the way you say ‘she has to always be different doesn’t she?’ with a tense laugh. I see in the way you roll your eyes at footage of some young performance artist, as though by their very nakedness you are free to be more confident in your closeted life. I feel it in your condescending sympathy for the squalor they live in, tsking in a sad way that is actually a sigh of relief mistaken for compassion. I see it in the way you fund the arts.

“Creativity is awesome!” you espouse.  At a distance. Framed on your wall. On paper between your fingertips. Rented from a movie store. On a stage with curtains that come down at the end. In your ears at the end of wires.

But god forbid some struggling young artist gets in your face with their 10 ton shithouse angst about the fact their college just cut their program or the theatre they just secured their first job in is closing or the grants that their parents used to have to make films with are gone.


The bonus is young artists can congregate online and have some voice but it isn’t loud enough yet. Each and every young artist is going to have to ‘vanquish their nervousness’ and yell like hell into the bullhorn of creativity so that all those people enjoying their work so very much will understand that our culture is in fact killing the very thing they find so precious in their lives.

Cecil Beaton once wrote a kind of call to art that I  have pinned to my fridge and I quote here to remind young creatives struggling in a world of complacency and disaffectedness:

“Be daring. Be different. Be impractical. Be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace. The slaves of the ordinary.”  

Creativity is a person. It isn’t a thing. Support creative arts, support students who practice art, and our culture just might survive with some light left in it.

Image courtesy of Brendan Doyle

If you would like to participate in and support the Communication students at Camosun college (where their Applied Communications program is set to be cut), the hashtag community is  #savecomm.


Filed under Non-fiction

4 responses to “Creativity is a person

  1. A smart and honest look at the state of the arts today. Thanks for your brave, creative words, Mags.

    • I was that art student once. I was the creative person sitting with a label of ‘artsy-fartsy’ plastered on my forehead. I know of where these students come. I hope we can do more for them in the future. Thanks Tess, as always, for reading.

  2. Thanks Mags for your thoughts and for your writing. The creative is a person too, let’s not marginalize. I am going to point others to this article and to your blog.

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