Geetanjali Mukherjee

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Positive Gift of Creativity (or a Love Letter to Art)



Last night I was watching the BAFTA awards, which had many funny and interesting and nostalgic moments. But a couple of speeches really stood out for me. 

(Spoiler alert) The first was actress Emma Stone’s speech on receiving her BAFTA for Best Actress (La La Land). She spoke about the positive gift of creativity, and how it can make a difference, especially when times are hard. Many of the other recipients spoke in the same vein. The movie’s producers talked about the same thing - how important it is for people to keep producing art, and to keep giving us experiences on screen that remind us of our shared humanity.

I have been reading this book by psychologist Anders Ericsson - Peak. And among the many things I am learning from this book, was this giant insight (it wasn’t technically in the book, but the pieces fell into place while reading it) - you need to write and keep writing, and with each story, you become a better writer. Now this seems so obvious, until I parse this out a bit more. 

I am working on (or rather am supposed to be working on) revising my first novel to publish it. I am putting it off and not working on it, because I am scared its not very good. Which is quiet likely since its my first novel. And yet, the point of writing it and putting it out there isn’t so that I can put out a great novel. Because that’s not very likely, right off the bat. The point is to become a better writer. I will become better just through the act of writing and finishing. And with each story I write and publish, I will get even better. And one day, maybe not too far away in the future, I will write a story that will remind those who read it of our shared humanity. And make them cry or laugh or both. 

I believe in the power of art. I always have. But at the same time I don’t believe in the power of my art. I don’t think that I can write all that well, and the more scared I am, the less likely I am to do the work, the work that will make me a better writer. 

On one hand, I put Art on a pedestal. Art with a capital A - everything that is beautiful, moving, full of emotion. But in order to be an artist, with a small a, one has to remove some of that power. One has to claim that power for oneself. No one becomes an artist, small or big, successful or otherwise, in one day, with one piece. You have to hone your craft, no matter how much talent you are born with. And being afraid to experiment, being afraid to play, that stops you from developing your craft and honing your talent. 

Although that is easy to say, I have found that it is difficult to do. Fear stops us. Fear gets in our head, telling us that we are stupid to even think of writing a book, painting a portrait, performing a play or whatever. How do we stop that fear? I have read lots of books and tried lots of techniques, but at the heart of it all - love.

I know I know - corny. But on Valentine’s Day, maybe you can indulge me. Remember why you wanted to do it in the first place - write, paint, sing, act. Remember what it feels like to watch a performance, see a painting, read a story that mesmerizes you. And for the love of that feeling, go for it. It is important to love the people in our life and to express that love, but I think it’s just as important to love our art, our creativity. To love the fruits of that creative expression, no matter how rough-hewn and unpolished for the moment. And I believe that for the love affair with your art to count, you have to nurture that love, give it time and patience and loving care, spending every moment you can steal with it. Like Elizabeth Gilbert says, have a love affair with your creativity. And watch it love you back. 

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