Creative Constipation

At about the age of thirteen, I stopped considering myself to be a creative person. There was no causal event, no life-altering revelation involved. I just stopped writing, stopped drawing, and stopped creating as I moved into adolescence. Life started to revolve around music and boys, and most of my creativity was channeled into choosing the perfect song lyrics for my AIM away message, or figuring out a way to subtly-but-obviously flirt with my crush. I didn't think of myself as someone who could create content that was all my own, and I didn't really feel the need to, because the bands that I loved spoke the words that were in my head and their music was an outlet for my emotions. I never took any of my teenage angst and turned it into anything. I kind of regret that now.

It took me years to regain a sense of creativity. My once-favorite activity, writing, became something I only did for school, in the form of essays and strictly-structured papers, so full of rules and regulations that they zapped the life right out of me every time I had to sit down to write. I began to loathe the act of writing because it meant forcing fake words onto paper, on a subject I didn't care about, for the sole purpose of impressing a teacher or professor enough that they would give me a good grade. Any creative writing ideas I had on the side quickly withered and died, because I couldn't get past the dread of having to form complete sentences. I forgot that it was possible to write on my own terms; I lost my voice. As a result, I feel like I have almost fifteen years' worth of words stockpiled in my head, and no eloquent manner with which to eject them.

Creativity eventually returned to me in the form of photography, although I wasn't aware of it at the time. During my sophomore year of college, I began to notice beautiful pictures everywhere, and I wanted to know what made them the way they were. I am not a person who grew up with a camera in her hand, and once I did get my hands on one, I still didn't think of it as anything more than a vague hobby. I enjoyed it immensely, but it didn't come naturally to me; I had to work at it, which made me believe that it probably wasn't for me (I recently learned that this means I have a fixed mindset, which is a concept that has clarified more for me than anything else I have read in years - more on that another time).

But I kept on taking pictures anyway, and to my surprise, I slowly got better. When I got frustrated that a picture wasn't looking the way I wanted to, I found out why, and practiced until the final outcome matched what was in my mind. And yet I still didn't consider myself to be a creative person. To me, photography was just something I did because I enjoyed it - I wasn't creating anything, I was just making digital copies of the original. I still feel that way most of the time. But by continuing to pursue it, honing my technique and figuring out my personal style, I was making it my own, which was something I had never done before. It's one of the only activities in my life, other than writing, that I have ever felt truly passionate about.

And so, over the past few years, I have slowly been recapturing my sense of creativity. However, there is a messiness to this process that I never realized existed, and that messiness has been a painful reality to accept. Because I got out of the habit of creating when I was a teenager, I missed out on learning to be okay with making mistakes and seeing failure as growth. I've always paid so much attention to the final product of others, ridiculously assuming that they just woke up one morning and blammo, pooped out an art piece and sold it for a million dollars.

Over the past few months, though, I have had an awakening. While I knew that the above wasn't actually true - that creative people everywhere actually have to work work work to make their art, and even then there's no guarantee of it being perfect or successful - it has now actually begun to sink in. In school, I could write a paper and make it good enough to get an A, all without ever having to show my work to the world. I could go from rough draft to finished product, and only I, along with the occasional teacher, would see the mess in the beginning and middle of the process. But that's not how it works in the real world, and the more I try to recreate that scenario, the more I stifle myself and any progress I could be making. I let my perfectionist mentality get in the way of actually just being myself and making stuff, because I have such a fear of the rest of the world seeing me mess up. It's like creative constipation. The more I hold it in because it's not perfect, the more it gets backed up, and the harder it'll be to squeeze out in the end. Maybe in that regard, some artists actually do get up in the morning and just poop their stuff out - the difference is, they don't bother to differentiate between the good and the bad. They just let it all flow forth. 

If you're not grossed out by my never-ending poop analogy yet, let's be friends. 

All of this is really just a long-winded way of saying that I'm done trying to be perfect (were you even aware that's what I was doing? Probably not). It's exhausting, and I never achieve perfection anyway, so it's also pointless. I want this blog, and my life, to be a place full of messes and mistakes that I don't feel the need to hide from everyone else. I am not the best photographer. I am not the best writer. I am a work in progress. And no one but myself has ever said that I should be anything more. I don't want to feel shame for attempting new things. Some attempts will be ugly. Some attempts won't work out. But those things have to come first in order for the fantastic and the functioning to happen down the road. Some of the people I admire the most seem to have their shit together in such a neat, clean way that it makes me want to cry with desire. But that's not me, and I need to stop pretending that it is. Maybe if I allow myself to be the creative, ridiculous hot mess I really am, I can finally overcome this creative constipation I've been living with for far too long, and poop out something beautiful. 

Happy weekending, lovers.