“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― Pablo Picasso
Everyone is creative.
Hardly newsworthy, I know.
But if you're driven to work outwith the creative sector or even, sometimes, within it, it's not long before your creative spirit is rubbed out — in some cases for good.
Or at least that's what it was like for me.
The standard question my parents would put to me when I was growing up was:
"What job are you going to do?"
And my stock answer (which used to drive them batshit crazy) was:
"I haven't got a clue."
This ping-pong went on for a few years until, one day, I suspect in a fit a pique, they said:
"We know what you need to do. Get a bloody trade."
And I said:
"I don't want to get an effing trade."
Not then, not now did I see myself working with my hands. Don't get me wrong: I've never had a problem with hard graft, getting dirt under my fingernails and mucking in when necessary, but I simply don't have the aptitude nor the skill to be anything like a carpenter or bricklayer. In short, if I'd relented to the pressure to simply get... a trade (as if it was as simple as that), I'd have been shit. I knew that then and the passing of years hasn't made my decision-making any less suspect.
What then did I do?
And drifted, and drifted some more, until I finally washed up at the shores of legal practice — I was 29 by now.
It didn't last — well, not really.
I was spat out, aged 43, when I dropped the pretence that being in service to a bigger cause was a distant dream and, in fact, all I was doing was selling my soul down the proverbial river to keep a few people — aka the partners — in the life they'd become accustomed to.
As to the next decade, well, I'll fill in the blanks another time, but all I'll say apropos the rubric is that I dropped all the shit I'd inherited or bought hook, line and sinker about being some shit hot lawyer, or successful entrepreneur and set my creative spirit free. In the process, I started blogging, writing poetry, drawing, calligraphy, doing a fair bit of public speaking and I also held myself out as a bit of social media/marketing whizz which did actually stretch my creative muscles in ways that I'd often thought about but never had the opportunity to try out in real-time and in real life.
And I fuc*ing loved it.
Still do — the blogging bit and a few of the other disciplines.
Because it's who I am. I'm not, as I said in my poem yesterday, a machine, which is what I turned myself into when shooting for the career stars.
Looking back, and not to make too much of my parents' chagrin, I wish, oh by god I wish, that together we'd sat down and had a proper conversation rooted not in money-making, or buying into the 'any-job-will-do' narrative, but instead, one where I'd been asked to articulate, as best I could, what I enjoyed or better still what brought me the greatest joy.
And frankly, it would have been easy: I loved creating. Even as a boy that's where I'd been happiest and had shown, I think, some early promise, winning an art competition and being a reasonable potter. At that time, I was aided and abetted by a wonderful art teacher, Connie Levasseur, who taught at a University in South Africa. (My parents emigrated there in June 1975 and we returned two years later.) Of course, I wouldn't have known exactly what that would have meant — i.e. to be a creative — or how I might have made money, but trust me, being flogged to death — figurately speaking — by most of my teachers because I didn't have the interest nor ability for their subjects (nearly all science-based save technical drawing) would have been the answer to my rebellious, contentious streak; namely, I was bored shitless and needed an outlet beyond what they were teaching me and what my parents believed was in my best interest. I did eventually find an outlet for all that teenage angst but it was in karate and other sports. And that was great — still is — but art or creativity just didn't get a look in.
And the takeaway?
Well, I'm super pleased to see, despite the dire, grief-stricken circumstances of Covid19, more and more people flex their creative muscles. The evidence base may be a bit suspect, but, from what I've seen online, more and more people are returning to either their first creative love or are doing things they've only ever spoken about in hushed tones but never tried out. That means people are starting to blog, to write, to draw, to paint, to knit, to cook and even gardening seems to be in the ascendency again. And I love it. In fact, I really hope that when, sometime soon, everyone has to return to whatever is left of their pre-Covid19 life that this sudden outburst of love for their creative genius isn't annihilated on the steps of getting on with things and, you guessed it, not having the time. Oh, please. We're all busy but if you enjoy something, why stop doing it? Yes, I know it's easy for us keyboard warriors to say these things but, seriously, if you value your soul then you'll try like hell to hold on to as much of your creative outpouring as possible.
Anyhow, it's a bank holiday today and I'm sure you've got things to do, people to Zoom with and cakes to bake.
Until the next time folks.
Much love, Ju.
PS. If you're able to support my work, I've now put up a page where you can make a one-off donation or consider becoming a patron on Patreon.