Being a misfit or outsider can be distressing or downright painful, especially as a teen, but many artists say it is part of their experience that helps them be more creative.
Writer Anne Rice talks about being “a bad student, I daydreamed in class, wrote stories in my notebooks. I learned the basics, but most of my active intellectual life was outside of school. It was acutely painful because [my sister and I] felt different, like misfits. Our individuality was almost irrepressible, but I wanted to fit in.”
In the 1960s, paintings of “sad-eyed children,” massively reproduced in posters and cards, became possibly the best-selling art in the world for a time, thanks to the tireless marketing by Walter Keane of “his” work. The “big eyes” images were owned by celebrities and hung in many permanent collections.
But Walter Keane was a fraud and plagiarist: the art was actually created by his wife Margaret Keane.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” ― Albert Einstein
Stories, perhaps especially the more elaborate and potent examples of fantasy and fairytale, can do more than entertain: they can reveal how others, and ourselves, manage being human. And how we can do better at it.
British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing led a group of other brilliant codebreakers, including Joan Clarke, at Bletchley Park outside London during WWII to crack the German’s Enigma code.
One of his biographers, professor S. Barry Cooper, writes that Turing “was a strange man, who never felt at ease in any place…He randomly adopted some conventions of his class, but rejected with no regret and hesitation most of their habits and ideas.
“The artist begins with a vision — a creative operation requiring effort. Creativity takes courage.” Henri Matisse
What fears and anxieties are holding you back from expressing yourself more creatively? Matisse and many other artists and psychologists note creative work requires courage or dealing with our fears.
[Continued from Part 1]
What does creative excellence take?
In his article How to Win American Idol, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to research by Rena Subotnik and Linda Jarvin, who “interviewed over 80 top students at different stages of their musical careers and identified the traits important to succeed at every stage on the way to the top.
“The three abilities that were absolutely necessary as a baseline were intrinsic motivation, charisma, and musicality.”
But for musicians at an “elite” level of talent, “technical proficiency mattered less and the following factors rose to prominence: self-promotion skills, having a good agent, capitalizing on strengths, overcoming self-doubt, exuding self-confidence, good social skills, persevering through criticisms and defeats, and taking risks.”
How does a brutal teaching style impact those factors?
One of the myths of creative and multitalented people may be that they can choose whatever personal and career paths they want.
Having many interests and abilities can make for a rich and satisfying life, but also be a source of stress, especially at crossroads like choosing college majors.
Gifted education specialist Tamara Fisher quotes Bryant (a pseudonym), a graduating senior who lists his possible future careers as “applied psychologist, scientific psychologist, college teacher, philosophy, mathematics, architect, engineer.”
Photographic images can be a powerful form of expression for creative people, and also a tool for therapists and anyone to help explore our inner selves.
This image by artist Jennifer Moon is titled “A Story of a Girl and a Horse: The Search for Courage.”
A news article about an installation of her photographs, sculpture and text-based works at UCLA Hammer Museum’s “Made in L.A. 2014″ biennial, describes the piece as a “self-portrait, a chromogenic digital photo [that] depicts Moon on a chocolate brown horse, leaping over a bed of clouds shot through with electricity, as if she were riding a flying Unicorn.”
We may watch a movie or TV show, read a novel or listen to music, and appreciate that the authors, those identified as artists, are certainly “creative types” – but what about the producers and set designers?
Or the computer engineers at digital animation companies like Pixar?
The MacArthur Foundation has a mission to “support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world” and acknowledges there are many kinds of creators, awarding its renowned fellowships to a wide range of people: playwrights, novelists, dancers, botanists, economists, chemists, physicians, psychologists and many others.
How does our self concept, our identity, affect creative expression?
How do we find creative passions and how does pursuing them demand changes in our life?
One example of an artist who has addressed these questions is Natalie Fobes.
A bio on her site summarizes some of her personal journey and work:
“Not many photographers have faced winds of 90 knots and seas of 40 feet while on a fishing boat in the middle of the Bering Sea.
“Few can describe the bitter cold of a Siberian winter while camped out with Chukchi reindeer herders. Or say that their first client was National Geographic Magazine.