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What Do You Want To
Say - and Why?
I was talking to a mentor friend the other day.
She had a theory: that artists', musicians' and writers' creativity comes from two main sources.
From ego or from value.
This really resonated with me. I finally understood something I now consider profound.
When you write from ego your focus is on people's responses to your work, or the accolades you might receive or the fame and riches you might enjoy as a result of your work.
There's actually nothing wrong with this. After all, many famous people have used the technique of visualizing a glorious end result as a form of motivation since time began. It works - and explains why some of us get famous for seemingly no valid reason - except perhaps that was all they ever wanted.
Your ego can be a superb motivator. It's consistent too. It can pick you up and propel you forward on a daily basis. You can be productive and prolific using just the ego alone.
What are you actually saying in your work?
Are you creating anything of any value?
Does your work say anything profound about the human condition?
When you look back at the great artists and writers of history, what do you see?
Those that have stood the test of time were not just commercially successful, they also had within their work a depth of meaning, or observational skill, that allowed their work to transcend mere 'beauty' and become intrinsically 'valuable' to our species.
Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Melville, Conrad, Dickens, Austen weren't just writing to entertain the crowd. They also had an ability to teach us something important about ourselves to each successive generation after their deaths.
These were writers who wrote from a commitment to value.
Everybody wants to be famous these days.
You see it in film schools where students learn the art of film making and are ambitious but when you ask what their next project will be they have no idea.
You see it in writers' groups where everyone is dedicated to improving their craft and getting published but can't think of anything to write about...
They often can't think of anything to SAY.
My feeling tends towards the idea that if you have nothing particular to say, you probably shouldn't be expressing yourself artistically at all. Not much good can come from it - unless you just want to be a technician, an artisan or a crafts person...
But of course the urge to create isn't quite as simple as that. We all have the urge to some extent, some of us a lot more than others.
But true artists surely have a responsibility to look at life and their own intrinsic moral stance (even if it's not so ethical), to look deep inside themselves and ask the profound questions.
What is it to be human? What does it mean? What can I say about the human condition that will be enlightening? Meaningful?
I think when we're formulating ideas for creating our next artistic project, we should be asking ourselves these questions - along with all the usual technical stuff - because when we do, our work becomes more valuable.
The added benefit being that we can then transcend the ego within.
Because part of the problem with creating from ego is that it leaves you open - exposed - to savage criticism. When you create something essentially shallow and are criticized for it, it hurts because a part of you knows that what you've done is next to meaningless.
Criticism is hard to take for most every artist. But if you know, deep inside, that what you've done is create something meaningful - and works in a profound way for YOU, then criticism becomes practically irrelevant!
Knowing that you wrote something that mattered, that had to be said, gives you a higher purpose - one that is unmoved by what lesser folks, critics I mean, have to say about your work.
Criticism is easy. We all do it for that reason.
Creating is hard - and creating trivial pieces of entertainment is probably just as hard as creating something of lasting value - IF you have the right mindset from the start.
Don't let yourself get carried away by the idea that you must write like the latest bestselling author or come up with another superhero because that's what seems to make artists successful.
Write from your heart.
Write with integrity - and only when you have something important or profound or at least significant to say.
It's a tough call I know - and not exactly necessary these days. But if you take the time to go that extra mile, I think you'll feel better about yourself and what you do.
Who knows, you might even create something that is still around in a few hundred years' time.Keep writing!
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"Rob Parnell is the foremost writing guru in the world." Vin Smith, Midnight Bookworm
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