Creativity terrifies me.
I may as well get that out in the open before I start. I’m a pathologically obsessive perfectionist. I have a life-ruiner of an anxiety disorder. Those two things combined make a horrible vortex of fear and pessimism. Creating things opens the shell I keep around me for my own (shrinking) sanity. It exposes me to criticism and rejection. It’s entirely scary.
I’m here, anyway. Writing, anyway.
I read this Cracked article yesterday. I was in a bit of a depressive funk last night, and I read that article and hated it. Today, I thought I’d go back and read it again.
And I still hate it.
So I thought myself around in circles for a bit, and figured that if lots of people were reading it and getting good things from it, I was probably the one who was wrong. But it wouldn’t go away. Then I read this post by Gia (who had been the one to post the Cracked link yesterday), and thought YES. I am behind this one 100%. I thought about the other speeches and articles about creativity that I really loved. Neil Gaiman. Salman Rushdie. Kurt Vonnegut. Terry Pratchett – actually, I went to look up a Pratchett quote, forgot what one I wanted, and lost fifteen minutes reading everything. That man inspires just by waking up in the morning.
What was the difference? It wasn’t just that I don’t want to take life advice from someone who thinks Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross is anything other than an odious jerk. It wasn’t wounded pride. It nagged at me all afternoon, and I was about this far into the first draft of this post when I realised why.
The tone I get from the Cracked post is the same attitude that friends and counsellors have spent years trying to ease away from me. The world demands its pound of flesh. If you can’t provide anything to the world, you are useless. I’m considered ‘unfit to work’, and there are days when all I can do is manage to eat and sleep. There are days when I can’t eat or sleep. I think I’m useless, mostly. I feel like the world is a treadmill turned up too fast and all I ever manage to do is just barely stay abreast. Like if I run really fast and write loads and get great exam marks and have a brilliant relationship and and and… then maybe I might be worthy of citizenship in society.
For the first time in a long time, today, I had a feeling of intense discomfort in this role I’ve built for myself. I’ve slowly been learning that I don’t actually believe the world is an uncaring objective surroundings. The world is what we do. If you do nothing, the world will continue on regardless. If you do something, you’ve changed it. Infinitesimally, yes, but truthfully. If you do nothing, you don’t lose. You just stagnate – which is okay, I suppose, and lots of people manage to live contentedly without engaging their creative gears too much. But it’s not the only option.
Here’s my point: you don’t have to create for your life to be worthwhile. You create because you want to, and it makes your life better.
For me, that’s the difference between forced labour and fulfilling work.
Somewhere over the past few months I’ve gone from abject terror at the thought of showing anything imperfect to the world, to – well, to mild queasiness. Miracles don’t happen overnight, after all.
But it’s a start.
Everything’s a start.
Go read some of the links here. (Take the Cracked one with a large bag of salt, if you’re one of my fellow mentally interesting types.) You might find yourself flinching at the thought of showing the world your broken insides, and thinking that you don’t have anything to contribute. You’re getting that backwards. You don’t have to contribute anything. You do have something to contribute.
And if I can believe that, you absolutely can too.
(I wish I could do this damned posting on different subjects without doing the mental illness etc routine over and again, but until I figure out how to divert referrals to single posts through a big sign that says ‘watch out for irrational thinking, 500 words on the left’, you get to read the explanation many times. Aren’t you lucky?)