Writing Question: Are you thankful for your creativity?

May 2nd, 2013 by

Generally I am quite thankful for who I am and how I am. Over the years, I’ve pretty much come to accept the quirky nature of my being and way of thinking, even if that involves emotional ups and downs, the absolute necessity to write when I feel inspiration, and an unalterable inability to fit into systems, organizations and just a regular type job.

But there are times when I wish, “Why couldn’t I have become a lawyer? A banker? An accountant?” Something… anything with defined hours and a paycheck that deposited into my account on the 1st and 15th of every month… the sheer security and sameness of that… yet knowing that would be nothing but a stifling, soul-sucking experience.

So as I was doing a bit of housecleaning recently on the blog site, working my way through over 1000 draft posts I’ve accumulated over the years, and I stumbled onto this article from a year ago, I thought it would make for a good topic of conversation. It is titled: “A Little Weird? Prone to Depression? Blame Your Creative Brain”.

In it, the writer identifies some common traits for creative types. See if these resonate with you:

* Creative people have characteristics that make them more vulnerable.

* “A highly original person may seem odd or strange to others.”

* Creative brains have difficulty “gating” sensory input.

* “Creative people are more likely to be productive and more original if surrounded by other creative people.”

Perhaps the single most interesting point made in the article is this:

According to [neuroscientist Nancy C.] Andreasen [author of "The Creative Brain"], our openness to new experiences, tolerance for ambiguity, and the way we approach life enables us to perceive things in a fresh and novel way. Less creative types “quickly respond to situations based on what they have been told by people in authority”, while creatives live in a more fluid and nebulous (read: incredibly stressful) world.

“Such traits can lead to feelings of depression or social alienation,” writes Andreasen. They sure can.

Luckily, though creatives experience higher rates of mood disorders than the general population, the extremes of highs and lows tend to be brief, balanced by long periods of normal affect, or euthymia. During these respite periods, creatives frequently reflect upon and draw from memories and experiences of their darker times to create their best art.

Every person has value. Each individual has gifts. But creative types have a unique set of capabilities and instincts that in effect define who we are. At times, hopefully most of the time, we experience that as a positive. But not always and on some occasions, the pull to create and what that requires of us is really, really hard.

So my questions to you are these: Are you thankful for your creativity? If so, why? On the other hand, do you have regrets about pursuing your creative passions? Are there times when you wish you could live a more ‘normal’ life?

I’m really curious to see what folks have to say.

For more of the article, go here.

19 thoughts on “Writing Question: Are you thankful for your creativity?

  1. Debbie Moon says:

    I’ve never had the slightest desire to lead a ‘normal’ life. Which is probably good, seeing that I mostly haven’t!

    And knowing I didn’t want ‘normality’ was actually helpful during the years I was getting nowhere and making no money as a writer. I knew I was never going to give it up and do something else, because what else would I do…? :)

    1. Scott says:

      Debbie, I expect your response will be pretty typical in this thread. What else CAN we do? And yet there are times when it is so challenging, in the External World of the business, and as the article explores, the Internal World of our respective brain / DNA / psychological make-ups where the combination can lead to some rough patches.

      This just occurred to me: What if one TRIES to give up the creative life, even if they HAVE to be creative?

      And this also occurs to me: Perhaps I feel so strongly about following one’s bliss [in this case the creative life] because I made that choice years ago to divert from the academic life and pursue music… which became stand-up comedy… which became screenwriting… which has become all of THIS I currently do.

      We have ONE chance at life. Ought we not do EVERYTHING we can in power to find what it is that enlivens us most and pursue THAT, even if it does represent enormous challenges?

  2. Lence1818 says:

    I’m very thankful for my creativity. Sometimes it’s all I have to rely on. As for wanting to settle for normalcy, I see my peers already preparing their lives for regular 9 to 5 jobs as if its inevitable but I know in my heart that I’m not meant to do that. I haven’t sacrificed enough to get to the point of regret but I have no worries over how I have spent the last 2 years studying and pursuing this dream.

  3. Why is it still popular to equate “creative types” with counter culture and not fitting in? I think that is one of the biggest myths that everyone rushes to embrace because it gives them instant street cred on whatever you’re creating.

    The fact is — creativity is mysterious. I’m suspicious of any attempt to reduce the mystery down into giant blocks of people who react certain ways depending on how “creative” they are.

    1. Scott says:

      Yes, Michael, I didn’t mean to suggest that creative types are all a bunch of right-brain hippies, not to say that’s what you are saying. I know plenty of people who approach writing like a job with a regular schedule, deadlines and the rest.

      Just as there is no one right way to write, there is no one right way to be creative.

      Thanks for reminding us of that fact.

  4. edangerc says:

    Scott,

    First and foremost…thank you for posting this. I mean it. I feel like I needed to see this today. I am going to write a LOT more but I want to finish the article you are referring to first.

    So more to come shortly.

    Talk soon! :)

    OH! and Yes, most of the time I’m thankful. Let’s just say more recently for sure but it’s still something I’m struggling with.

  5. edangerc says:

    Okay, that article was a lot shorter than I thought.

    I have a few things to say. I actually agree with Michael’s comment about “creative types”. I’ve always fit in, never had any problems making friends, and am the complete opposite of an introvert. However, I am more sensitive than most people I know. But I’m not sure that has to do with my creativity, I always thought it had more to do with my dysfunctional family situation especially growing up…but maybe I was wrong!

    I am 35. I’ve always been “creative” but because of how I was raised I never really got to explore and nurture that part of who I am until later in life. I think it was suppressed for VERY long time. I played sports all through grade school and high school and was actually quite good at them. My dad pretty much raised me and he was very big into athletics so that is mainly what I concentrated on. No art classes, no drama, no band, nothing artsy fartsy at all. I enjoyed playing sports but it always felt like something was missing.

    When I got to college it was like a different world. I finally was able to figure out what I enjoyed. I ended up going to The University of Arizona and switched majors several times until I finally figured out I could study Media Arts. Basically a generic film school. I always did so poorly in school and did whatever I needed to just get by until I finally started taking these classes because I was finally interested in something. I didn’t even know film schools even existed. Really. That’s how freaking oblivious I was to that world.

    Anyway, I could go on and on… but mainly I didn’t realize until recently just how creative I actually am and how important it is to me and my life.

    I’ve had COUNTLESS jobs since I’ve graduated college. Like 40. I’ve lived in a lot of cities. Now I’m in LA and have been here for the past 8 years and have no plans of leaving.
    I’ve tried so many times to have a ‘normal’ job. My dad was a Pilot and he wanted me to be a Pilot and so many times I’ve wished that I would/ could have just done that. Not possible. Since college I’ve tried to work in the Entertainment Industry for the post part. Typically I’ve been working as an assistant to Writer/Directors/Actors on Feature films but I’m so sick of being an assistant I could barf. I’m so sick of helping other people achieve their dreams and watch them be creative for a living that finally only 2 years ago did I started writing something I never thought I could do but I got Final Draft from an old boss and I never looked back. It’s the happiest (but yes, sometimes loneliest) I’ve been in my life. I feel like for the first time ever I know what I want to do. Now I just need to get paid for it. I still have to take assistant jobs to make ends meet but I’m happy that I’m working for/with creative types. It helps and then on the weekends I write, or paint, or take photographs, I do as much as I can creatively because if I don’t, I’m miserable.

    And the days I’m in between jobs…I NEED to do something creative every day. Wether it be painting something to hang our room, making an elaborate greeting card, baking a cake, spray painting a bunch of shit gold. Decorating. Decorating and more decorating. I feel like I express myself the best through writing but I’m also very visual.

    I actually feel like I’m more creative now than I’ve ever been and I’m happy about that. I do feel like sometimes people feel like I’m ‘weird’ or a bit much. I have crazy ideas that I think are brilliant that most people just laugh off. I don’t know. I’m just glad I saw this today because this has been probably the most creative few years of my life and I’ve been the most vulnerable. I guess it’s just something you deal with. I think it’s a pretty fair trade off.

  6. edangerc says:

    OKAY….so I wanted to “edit” it but it said it timed out. I never post stuff so I’m new at this… anyway…not MUCH different but this is what I wanted to post instead of the above…

    Okay, that article was a lot shorter than I thought.

    I have a few things to say. I actually agree with Michael’s comment about “creative types”. I’ve always fit in, never had any problems making friends, and am the complete opposite of an introvert. However, I am more sensitive than most people I know. But I’m not sure that has to do with my creativity, I always thought it had more to do with my dysfunctional family situation especially growing up…but maybe I was wrong!

    I am 35. I’ve always been “creative” but because of how I was raised I never really got to explore and nurture that part of who I am until later in life. I think it was suppressed for VERY long time. I played sports all through grade school and high school and was actually quite good at them. My dad pretty much raised me and he was very big into athletics so that is mainly what I concentrated on. No art classes, no drama, no band, nothing artsy fartsy at all. I enjoyed playing sports but it always felt like something was missing.

    When I got to college it was like a different world. I finally was able to figure out what I enjoyed. I ended up going to The University of Arizona and switched majors several times until I finally figured out I could study Media Arts. Basically a generic film school. I always did so poorly in school and did whatever I needed to just get by until I finally started taking these classes because I was finally interested in something. I didn’t even know film schools even existed. Really. That’s how freaking oblivious I was to that world.

    Anyway, I could go on and on… but mainly I didn’t realize until recently just how creative I actually am and how important it is to me and my life.

    I’ve had COUNTLESS jobs since I’ve graduated college. Like 40. I’ve lived in a lot of cities. Now I’m in LA and have been here for the past 8 years and have no plans of leaving.
    I’ve tried so many times to have a ‘normal’ job. My dad was a Pilot and he wanted me to be a Pilot and so many times I’ve wished that I would/ could have just done that. Not possible. Since college I’ve tried to work in the Entertainment Industry for the post part. Typically I’ve been working as an assistant to Writer/Directors/Actors on Feature films but I’m so sick of being an assistant I could barf.

    Finally only 2 years ago I started writing, something I never thought I could do. But I got Final Draft from an old boss and I never looked back. It’s the happiest (but yes, sometimes loneliest) I’ve been in my life. I feel like for the first time ever I know what I want to do. Now I just need to get paid for it. I was lost for a very long time. I just couldn’t figure it out. Now that I have I’m a lot less of a spaz about “what am I going to do with my life? but I still have to take assistant jobs to make ends meet but I’m happy that I’m working for/with creative types. It helps.

    But every day I NEED to do something creative because if I don’t, I’m miserable. Wether it be painting something to hang our room, making an elaborate greeting card, baking a cake, spray painting a bunch of shit gold. Decorating. Decorating and more decorating or writing in my blog or posting ridiculous posts on facebook I have to do something.

    I actually feel like I’m more creative now than I’ve ever been and I’m happy about that. I do feel like sometimes people think I’m ‘weird’ or “a bit much’. I have crazy ideas that I think are brilliant that most people just laugh off.

    I don’t know. I’m just glad I saw this today because this has been probably the most creative few years of my life but also the most vulnerable. I guess it’s just something you deal with. I think it’s a pretty fair trade off.

    1. Scott says:

      Thanks for those observations, edangerc. I have a wonderful book I’ve been reading: “The Art of Pilgrimage,” and I think the metaphor of pilgrim can sum up the creative life quite well. Whether we work in an office or a cubicle or behind the wheel of a car or plane or are total Bohemians, we are all in our own way pilgrims in search of our muse, following paths into and through our stories. As you suggest, it’s when we are ON that path we find the most fulfillment and sense of being centered.

      I congratulate you on your courage and persistence. 40 different type of jobs! One has to assume that path through all those gigs was the one you were supposed to be on. I’m guessing those experiences will provide fodder for your stories.

      Onward and upward!

      1. Ah, I think for the most part in my life, I would say ‘yes’, but I will be honest – there have been more recent times when I have wondered, “Why couldn’t I have become something… anything with defined hours and a paycheck…’PAYCHECK’ particularly, especially when my family goes through certain difficulties or I have to feel guilty about my husband’s load? Or think twice about that takeout I am spending on? The worst is when I have to think twice about the cost of my kids’ schooling and health expenses and how long I can afford it, or how long before I quit writing altogether to do something full-time with more ‘steady’ income like the rest of my family and once my kids reach an age where I can do something full time? Note: that’s another thing, speaking of ‘steady’ job – I have no idea what else I would do, come to think of it.

        Also, having two young kids, working from home rather than an office is something I still struggle with a lot, because of all the distractions and responsibilities associated with it. When there are other people in the house, they often forget you are ‘working’, which sometimes makes me forget I am.

        Growing up, I remember I always wanted to do different things – all influenced by movies and plays I had seen (that I eventually wrote and directed), which set me on the path to attempt animation (something I gave up quickly, noting the endless hours of drawing and my own varying interests) and ultimately go through film school where I intended to pursue directing.

        But here’s the thing I have come to realize: screenwriting has never been a choice for me. It’s just always been there (this is a weird example, but like that person crushing on you forever who you liked but never knew about, but ultimately you get married to). Even when I never considered it anything more than this random fun thing I attempted with my cousin because we were bored that I was going to send to ‘Disney’ when I was thirteen (by the way, I actually sent that first sad script straight to their email)

        Writing in general is something that I have always done extending from my own love of reading and movies in general, but I never thought I could ever actually be successful at it, until recently two years ago, when, going through a particularly rough patch of life, I began to think – what is the one thing that I would regret never doing? And my mind immediately went to this script I had been working on ever since I could remember – and how sad I would be if that and stories I write were stories that no one else would ever see? It didn’t help that I was an average student doodling and writing between lunch hours and boring classes. It didn’t help that all the other stuff I tried (aka medical administration, production assisting, video editing, etc.) I found soul-sucking, compared to writing and directing. It also didn’t help that every time I saw a movie, I would see these mini-trailers in my head of my own stuff and my heart would ache from all the times it would say, ‘that could be me..’

        Anyway, at the risk of getting narcissistic, I will just say like many of us, life would totally suck for me in a big way if I didn’t write my paper dreams. So yes, despite circumstances, I am extremely thankful, no matter what happens.

  7. Oh and one more thing additionally I forgot to mention is the writing itself and frustrating as some days are, how much fun it is those good days when you discover something, when your characters and story surprise and excite you with all its twists and turns. When you finish that story and it’s ‘real’, it’s really an incredible, overpowering feeling that I simply have been unable to compare to anything else. Those ‘moments’, whether they are often or in between, make being creative worth it (for me).

  8. Debby Hanoka says:

    You could say I’m thankful for my creativity. It has served me well, though sometimes I don’t quite know what to do with it. That’s why I became a writer …

  9. Despina says:

    Good grief I feel like that article was written just for me. Explains a lot.

  10. CydM says:

    Scott & company, have any of you read Van Gough’s Blues? I thought it was a book on color theory (you can be creative without being intelligent), but it turned out to be anything but that. The author, a psychiatrist, claims every creative/artist will have repeated depressive episodes in life because they can see the object creating the shadow on the cave wall but nobody can access it. We see/hear/sense/know,feel the perfection of an idea or concept, but can’t quite touch it. That’s a bummer.

    I hate being a creative. I hate seeing what others don’t, taking it on the chin when I dare mention what I see, then never get an apology a few months later when what I see is the hobby horse the media jumps on, along with everyone else. I hate being tuned in because it stifles my own work. Never good enough. I know there’s something more, something better, something tougher and more challenging, but I can’t reach it.

    The only time it served me well was when my mother was ill and I had to step in and take over the family business, discovering we were crooks and one of our properties was in the epicenter of all Latino gang activity, as in the oldest and toughest organized gangs in America. Overnight, on December 2, 1999, I had to take over and pull the business from the brink of bankruptcy, manage my mother’s bizarre and twisted march towards the end, and with the other hand deal with murders, S.W.A.T. busts (they go through the walls, not the doors), meth labs, and facing down some pretty nasty characters, some within the family, some outside of it. I had detectives from organized crime and homicide give me their private cell numbers, which I kept on speed dial and used often. As this was winding down, my daughter ran off to Europe and married a minor Austrian rock ‘n roll star with hair down to his butt and American Indians tattooed all over his body. Yeah, that was fun, especially when he turned out to be a sociopath *and* the son of Austria’s former VP and we had had to somehow sneak her out of the country and figure out the finer points of an international divorce (she’s the one I offered in trade for a script…and now you know why). My creative juices were on overdrive during that period, and I was never stronger, more fit and healthy. I had to make up everything as I went along, and I pulled it off. But that wasn’t a 9-to-fiver. More like 24/7/365 (I slept with a cell phone in my hand).

    I’d rather face down El Jeffe and tell him to get his “stuff” together and off my turf than face down a plot that won’t work. The stakes are higher and I have to pull out everything I’ve got and put them to full use. It feels good having all senses on hyper alert because life and death hang in the balance.

    Without that intensity, I’m miserable. And cranky. Really, really cranky.

    1. Despina says:

      “I hate being a creative. I hate seeing what others don’t, taking it on the chin when I dare mention what I see, then never get an apology a few months later when what I see is the hobby horse the media jumps on, along with everyone else. I hate being tuned in because it stifles my own work. Never good enough. I know there’s something more, something better, something tougher and more challenging, but I can’t reach it.”

      AMEN!!

  11. Peter Dwight says:

    I am very thankful. It gives me a confidence and a place in the group, or at least I’m happily deluded enough to think I am of some epic value to the whole. hehe

    I was a horrible student growing up. Mild dyslexia, class clown, moved around growing up, and my interests were always numerous and random.

    My regrets are from the opposite end for me, regretting that I’ve put myself in positions that have made me dependent on the “normal” life, and dependent on (what someone mentioned earlier) helping others reach their dreams.

    Now and then I will blame my upbringing, even though there was always music and art in the family, there has never been a member to show that “yes, you can have a profession in the arts”. Family of a lot of teachers. Could have been the “those who can’t do, teach” mindset.

    I don’t regret what I’m striving for and who I am one bit. At least I now know who I am and what I want out of life. Creative or not I have several friends who are stuck on that. Ahead of the game!

  12. SabinaGiado says:

    Yes. I very often feel regret. I wonder why God didn’t just make me a doctor like my parents wanted.

    I could have taken the easy way. 7 years of med school, endless exams and specializations and after that, dealing with pain, death and grief on a daily basis.

    Piece of cake.

    Like Aarthi, I too work at home. No children yet – dirty dishes, laundry and other work that society continues to devalue.

    I too wonder if my husband can take the load, when we have kids.

    I wonder if I’m being irresponsible letting him handle all of the expenses. Yes, many days, I feel terribly guilty.

    The truth is, I tried corporate life. I was downsized twice and then I was fired. I have to say, the second downsizing especially was very painful. It broke my heart because I loved my work (though it was not film, it was a very inefficient non-profit organization) and loved the people I worked with.

    I’m wondering if I should go back, seeing as I’ve often felt very unwanted in the corporate world.

    But I love writing. I just love it, on the days it works and it doesn’t work.

    Maybe I should redefine the meaning of ‘responsibility’. Maybe I am responsible for being a happy courageous person following their dream, living their life to the fullest?

    Would I want anything else for my children? Would I want my children to give up at the first sign of trouble?

    I want so much more for them than I want for myself. If I am the standard that they are going to raise, it follows that I need to set my own bar super-high.

    Am I grateful for my creativity? I try to be :-)

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