Creativity’s Nontraditional Path

There’s uncertainty in how I want to live and how to do so. The uncertainty stems from the variety of perfectly sufficient ways to live a content and happy life. The decisions we must make to reach the outcome of satisfaction and happiness aren’t easily decided, accepted, or enforced, while life throws us curve balls and our minds scramble for solutions.

For me, I want my life to be entangled with writing, reading, and thinking. I’ll rephrase that. For me to live the life I want, how I want, and be content and happy, I must write, read, and think. By thinking, I don’t mean to imply I don’t think, but I want to think like a writer; to use my senses, my experiences, the teachings of literary masters to culminate thoughts that connect the world I’m seeing to the imagination through words.

I enjoy all three equally (writing, reading, and thinking), but, unfortunately, I don’t divide my time between them equally. Making a living out of those fundamental pleasures isn’t the path I’ve been taught to imagine growing up because it doesn’t lead a narrow straight line into my future. Many of us don’t live the life we want because of other pressures, but I have to believe it’s worth it. These pieces of my life seem too massive to push into the tiny box labeled hobby.

I’ve been slowly muddling through a collection of essays by Mary Oliver. My favorite in this work called Upstream is the essay “Of Power and Time.” There are too many powerful lines to quote, so many tangible ones held within seven pages of genius. I’ll share a few of my favorites throughout this blog.

While I hold out for a job that may utilize my degree, I was told my career path wasn’t traditional. Mary Oliver helped me feel reassured that I wasn’t being thoughtless. She wrote: “There is a notion that creative people are absentminded, reckless, heedless of social customs and obligations. It is, hopefully, true. For the are in another world altogether.”

I never considered myself an artist, but the writing I enjoy requires a creative artist’s stroke of color or imaginative intellect. Thinking of myself as an artist is a new coat that I haven’t tried on. It’s like my writer’s sweatshirt, but it feels like a shawl to me. It’s not as secure or familiar as my writer’s garb, but it’s woven from the same cloth.

Creators see the world differently; therefore, live in this world differently. Writers must be in tune with the world in order to create relevant and impactful works, but they, too, must see the world in different lenses.

I didn’t consider happiness could be found through an artist’s mind in the life I wanted to live, but I think that’s what’s restricted me from knowing how I wanted to live. I had the notion that finding a job not in my field and making it work to pay bills were requirements in this society. Now that I’ve been jobless for months yet still grasping onto the ordinary life with dissatisfaction, I feel foolish and tired.

Often, I find distractions to busy myself, binding me to the ordinary life of housewifery. Making my existence seem useful to those around me, yet it doesn’t work when I’m not being useful to myself. I put off writing and reading for laundry, dishes, vacuuming, dusting…

Then Mary Oliver found me again, guided me with her words and reminded me why I enjoy reading as much as writing and thinking: “The working, concentrating artist is an adult who refuses interruption from himself, who remains absorbed and energized in and by the work—who is thus responsible to the work.”

She reminds me it’s okay to be different, as long as I embrace that difference. I’m as meaningful as the effort I put into my writing, reading, and thinking. I shouldn’t seek value in the things that won’t fulfill meaning in my life as well.

I must tidy the nest at times, but I have important work to do. I’ve belittled my writing for too long, but it’s difficult to accept my calling knowing the future isn’t as easy as I once dreamed. Then again, is anything significantly meaningful ever easy to achieve?

I’ll leave you with Mary Oliver’s final sentence of her essay; she wrote of my greatest fear, and I refuse to live a life of regret. I’ve seen that coat cover many artists around me, and I’ll fight against its wooly weight as long as I know my worth.

“The most regretful people on earth are those who felt the call to creative work, who felt their own creative power restive and uprising, and gave to it neither power nor time.”

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