Chapter 14: Take Creativity Seriously: Artists are Professionals
How to Make Your Creative Dreams a Reality:
Strategies to Cultivate Your Talent
Take Creativity Seriously: Artists are Professionals
When I was growing up, my parents – who had struggled through the Great Depression – expected me to focus on getting a job in a stable company and enjoy a paycheck with two weeks’ vacation.
I understood their concern, but I wanted to be on the creative side – at the time, without knowing what the creative side was. I was a dreamer, I loved imagining things, I loved building things, and felt that the creative side could somehow accommodate what was important to me.
But I had no role models or resources. My parents never encouraged me to take art courses.
I enrolled in Salem Community College after high school: a diploma program in scientific glass.
I was mesmerized watching the instructor’s first demonstration: He flameworked not a piece of scientific glass equipment, but a graceful glass swan. The process, to me, was magical.
Over the next decade I worked hard to master the scientific glass craft and was very successful, eventually being responsible for glass shops in three locations. However, I could not tamp down the creative urge I felt when I first saw that swan take shape. A decade into my career, I was still eager to try anything I perceived as creative in glass, as naïve as my efforts were.
I quit my job.
The consensus among my friends and family was that I was crazy to give up such an attractive job in industry. But I had a savior: My wife Pat understood how unhappy I was commuting each day and how working in my utility room satisfied my hunger to be creative.
Pat supported my dream of leaving industry and being on my own. She believed in me more than I believed in myself.
You may not have a supportive partner. But your dreams deserve your full attention and courage. Ultimately, the decision and the commitment is yours.
If you have this need to be on the creative side, take it seriously. Make it the most important part of your life’s journey. For example:
• Dedicate time to be creative. Take responsibility for blazing a path for your creative need. Seek out what pulls you in emotionally and challenges you to learn more. What are you looking at? What does it take to do that? How can you incorporate this work into your life?
• If you are an emerging practitioner, take seriously the fact that your desire to be creative is every bit as worthy as someone else’s journey to become a doctor or an accountant. You are just as professional as they are, and will have opportunities to interact with other professionals on an equal basis. You are entering a field where as you mature as an artist, society values your insight and respects your courage that you evidenced when you decided to dedicate your life to art-making.
• Remember, too, that works of art represent your legacy. You have an opportunity through your work to attract an audience long after you are gone.
• You represent your time period. Your legacy to the future is based on truth to the human capacity to be creative. Your work becomes an artifact of your time. Scholars use the work of artists to understand a time period within the framework of society, whether the work is a functional object such as a decorative waterpipe used to smoke marijuana, or a fine-art painting or sculpture providing an emotional insight into the time period. Art says volumes.
• Keep in mind that you are a resource in the community. You can teach and share your point of view as a creative person. Creative people evidence a singular courage that is seldom found in the general population. As your work grows with significance, you become a mentor and a role model. This may be personally satisfying, but that’s not the point: You become an example of the many opportunities available for creative people – if they have the courage.
Creativity takes courage.
– Henri Matisse
I have been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I have never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.
– Georgia O’Keeffe