What is 'Creativity'?
It's 2:21am. I just walked in the apartment from a late night in the studio and had the most unexpectedly thought provoking conversation with Robert, my Lyft driver (kinda like Uber, but cheaper) for the night. I walked out of the studio at 1am got in the car and he asked me if I was leaving work. I said, "Yeah, kind of" half paying attention and half preparing my mind for the hour-long ride from Newark to Brooklyn. It's still a little weird to think of art as "work." I told him I was an artist and my studio was in the building which I had just left, so technically I was working - I guess. For the next hour, we began to talk to about everything from Abstract Expressionism to Bob Dylan. Robert is a musician and his son shows a talent for visual art - much like my father and me.
During our conversation, there were a couple points that struck a chord worth capturing before turning out the lights for the night:
Creativity is an interesting phenomenon. What is it? Why do we call people "creative"? What does that mean? People seem to have a fascination with the idea of creation. Perhaps that is why the debate around The Creation vs. The Big Bang or Adam and Eve vs. Evolution has been such a persistent one throughout the years. How is something as intricate as the human body or as vast as the universe created? We will probably never fully know. But the closest we can get is through our own individual ability to create. In the spirit of James Weldon Johnson's poem "The Creation," I will never know what God felt when he "stepped out on space...and said 'I'm lonely - I'll make me a world." But I do know what it is like to have nothing but a vision and an empty canvas - highly concentrated creative energy, waiting to be released onto a surface void of form or color. Musicians, sculptors, writers - can relate I'm sure. When you sit back and think, the process of starting with nothing and creating 'something' is really an amazing one, perhaps the closest we will ever get to fully understanding God. It makes me wonder though - are only some people gifted with creativity or do we all possess the gift and some are just more tuned-in than others? I'm inclined to believe the latter.
This leads me to the second realization sparked by Robert - maybe we have misinterpreted what "purpose" really is. I hear the term "purpose" a lot - "purpose driven life", "operating in your purpose", "finding your purpose", etc. It often feels like an elusive metaphysical thing which only an enlightened few with the capital to take life-risks actually ever discover (i.e. Oprah). In other conversations, it seems to be defined as a personal mission statement or one's perfect job description. Not saying any or all of those are wrong, but maybe it's not that complicated. As I sat in the back of Robert's Honda, I started to think maybe our purpose is simply to use our individual gifts and talents in the way they were intended. When i'm painting I feel there is a 'purpose' for what i'm doing. I'm not necessarily trying to solve world hunger or touch the masses, but it feels like what i should be doing at that time.
I imagine trying to nail a board to a wall with a screwdriver, or turn a screw with a hammer. Both are possible (I suppose), but the results and effort required to do so are less than ideal. But when you use the screwdriver in the way it was designed, to turn a screw, it works much better. It consumes energy to produce positive results - consistently. It is being used according to its purpose. In the same way, maybe purpose for us is not a job description but simply a state of being - how we use the energy we consume. If am channeling my energy through my gifts, than as a result what i produce is within my purpose, no?
Amazing what you talk about between Newark and Bed-Stuy at 2 in the morning...