Giving Them Away

This post may look familiar to some of you. It appeared a few years ago on another website of mine which has since been taken down. I feel, however, that this post is still relevant, so I’m sharing it here with apologies to those of you for whom it isn’t new.

One thing we creative types learn early on is that we just can’t keep everything we create. Physical objects take up space, and most of us don’t have so much space we can store everything indefinitely.

This is a good thing. Creative talents aren’t just for the artist: they’re for everyone. If we’ve been given a gift, chances are the gods intend us to share that gift with the world. And in the sharing, we receive input that helps us learn and enriches future projects. Not only that, but seeing people interact with finished works gives us a new understanding of the meaning of that work. Seeing our work through the eyes of others is an important phase in the creative process.

Sometimes, though, it’s hard to part with a project–even when it was clear from the very beginning that the object wasn’t mine. While I was making this nature spirit for a dear friend, the whole time I was thinking, “Why can’t I keep this one?”

But of course when I put it in my friend’s hands, I was glad I’d followed my instincts. It was so clearly hers, it would have been a crime to keep it for myself. I do best when I work by instinct, and when I work with a clear sense that my work is not all about me.

I know there are people who create art primarily for themselves. Art is therapy, or pleasure. But it’s never been that way for me. The creative process for me has always been a way of bringing something into the world that needs to be here; most of the time I create because of a tug, a pull, that says “Take this and make something with it. Someone is waiting for it.” When I follow that pull, the creation always finds the right home.

Of course, often working by instinct feels like fumbling in the dark. Sometimes I wish I could be one of those people who comes up with an idea, makes a plan, follows the steps, finishes the project or product, and sells it. I have heard, mostly from self-help articles, that those people exist. I don’t know any of them, but it sounds nice. Uncomplicated. Reliable. Whenever I decide I’m going to be linear, think things through, make plans . . . I end up creating very lovely things that live in my closet until I give them away because I need more space. My brain is great, but apparently it has nothing to do with my art. I need to remind myself of this frequently if I want to avoid wasting a lot of time and energy.

To work this way requires the cultivation of self-trust and generosity of spirit. And who knows? Maybe the development of these qualities is the most important goal of the creative life.


6 thoughts on “Giving Them Away

  1. We’re shifting house here. We are setting up an open reading space and theatre rehearsal space for us there. But just to think of going through all our work in this house, all our memories, we know we will have to eventually throw some away. It’s instinct that shall take us through too. šŸ™‚

    Enjoying the blog.

    Samyuktha PC
    Editor, Chai Kadai

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  2. But I’m always wondering about all those crafters and artists out there who don’t get their stuff sold. Despite they are really all eager and active, and despite their things are full of inspiration and skill – nobody seems to be interested. Any ideas for explanation?

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    1. Ah, now THERE’s a mystery I will never even begin to understand. Who knows? Maybe the world needs their art–just not yet? I think of all the stories of artists and composers who were beyond brilliant, but during their lifetimes they were ridiculed as hacks. It wasn’t until after their death–sometimes long after–that their work became a huge influence on the world.

      This always seems like a cruel prank to me, one I really don’t understand. The only answer that occurs to me–and who knows if it is true–is that maybe the obscurity, the struggle, has a vital purpose that we can’t see with our finite understanding. Perhaps their work wouldn’t achieve it’s highest purpose if they achieved success? I don’t know, it still seems unfair to me, and very perplexing.

      And wow, what a subject–one we could all discuss at length.

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      1. After long discussions with friends and watching the world around me, I slowly come to the tentative conclusion, that whoever invented The Arts never intended them to be a full time job. Rather, everybody should create what she/he is prone to, but earn their living by something “solid” (in a workshop, or farming, e.g.). Everybody should be independent in creating art, money was not planned to play a role. Somehow, some people misunderstood this concept and wanted to create all day long. So most of them don’t earn enough, or they have to subject their work to the desires the customers have instead to what their soul is telling them. Some are really successful – but why do we find them addicted to some substance and/or behavior in such a high percentage?

        Now, this is not a final answer, but some of my thoughts. I really have the impression that something in the Western culture went utterly wrong with being creative, in general. And no, I don’t see a way out.

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