I once heard someone say you can be either creative or cool, but you can’t be both. This idea stuck with me, because I think it reveals a deep truth.
It’s easy to argue the point, and to identify artists you consider both creative and cool. But doesn’t their brilliance actually reside in their original outsider status?
Whether you agree or disagree with me, there’s a point to be made for remaining your authentic self. “Cool” people do what everyone else does. They wear the clothes, participate in the activities, do the things everyone in the group they care about has labeled acceptable.
But true creativity lies in doing something different. Writing a story in the way only you can write. Painting a picture no one else could have visualized. Composing a song uniquely yours.
When I think about this concept, I like to visualize Snoopy and Woodstock. Snoopy epitomizes cool, with his World War I flying ace credentials and his glamorous, seemingly real fantasy life. But I prefer Woodstock. Woodstock seems to be lost in a fog much of the time. I like the way he flutters around, often upside down. Not very cool at all.
I wrote a lot of surreal stories in the 1990s, and couldn’t get many published. The trend in literary journals at that time was ultra-realism, seasoned with a hefty dose of minimalism. My colorful tales didn’t fit in.
I could have switched to the more popular literary style. I wrote a few of those stories, actually. I felt confident they were good, but they bored me. I’d written them with only half my heart.
So I made a conscious decision then to forget about publishing. To forgo striving to become great at what was considered the best kind of writing by the group I’d wanted to join. Though I knew I had the skills to write solid realistic pieces, my inner Woodstock wouldn’t let me do it.
I’ve spent the years since developing my craft. Filling up my creative reservoir. Writing with my whole heart. And it seems that surrealism has become just a bit more popular in the literary world lately. Perhaps I’ll dust off some of those old stories and start sending them out again. Or maybe not.
Either way, I’m grateful for the inner voice that steered me toward my authentic creative self. Because I’ve spent the last decade fluttering around, upside-down half the time. Bumping against Snoopy’s doghouse now and then. Acquiring a few bruises along the way. But finding myself arriving in unexpected locations. Discovering remarkable people, amazing places and astounding things I’d hate to have missed. And always, always moving to the beat of my own internal rhythm.
Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com