One of the things I like now most in my life, as a forty-something man, is having creative friends. It actually brings me so much happiness to watch people making things, and turning out at the end some new thing that did not previously exist! Whether it be a song, a piece of jewellery, an artwork or a poem, I feel very lucky to know these people and to get to glimpse them in action, even though many do not live in the same country as me.
I’m not a sports person, but I’m sure it would be the same kind of admiration that an athlete of one sport recognises in an athlete of another, even though they are part of a different code. But both have chosen to go in a particular direction that runs almost in parallel, and utilizes the same kind of processes, discipline and understanding.
And often, creative people get to collaborate with each other. A songwriter works with other musicians, a sound engineer, a graphic designer, a videographer, all to create a few different dimensions to their work. They treat each other with respect, because they understand what’s involved in the creative process, and what it takes to pull that kind of a rabbit out of a seemingly empty hat to a regular audience.
Anyway, during my thirties, I did a few creative projects here and there, but I was mostly on my own, having a normal job which people might consider a bit conservative and not that exciting. I would try and work on things in my spare time, like writing and audio recording, but I never got very far with it.
It took a redundancy to push me off a mid-level step of the so-called career pyramid, a temple that thrives on a sacrifice of time, youth and energy, to find myself with other creative people hiding out in the undergrowth, building their own little tributes to the things they care most about. Maybe not as prominently and noticeable as some corporate endeavour, but still all the same, adding something to the world.
The way things are organized in human society, is that we are actively encouraged just to be good at one thing, for the sake of efficiency – which has an element of truth to it. Do something day in, day out, and you eventually become good at it.
But at the end of the day this type of thinking leads us away from being well-rounded individuals. All people have creativity, but not all get the chance to nurture it as an adult. But the one thing that creativity encourages, is to not feel limited into the one activity. All creative people experiment with other forms, and cross-pollinate between genres and styles, borrowing from here and there, building on old memories and new insights. And when someone or something tries to hem them into being a one-trick pony, their greatest urge is to then turn around and kick the hell out whatever gate is locking them in.
That’s one reason I believe is at the heart of middle-aged anger: you suddenly understand that you haven’t got forever here on this earth, and you begin to feel resentful towards people and institutions keeping you from achieving the things you set out to do as a kid. Sometimes the anger comes out in a misguided way, like blaming others and being jealous of their success. But other times, it’s a completely legitimate feeling. And you have to jettison whatever it is that is holding you back from achieving your goals, including many personal things, like fear, self-doubt, and being overly critical of yourself.
All of us have dreams that we are not going to achieve; part of the being an adult is understanding this. But also revising your dreams, scaling-them down a bit so that they might become more achievable – as well as picking the dreams that are the most important to you, so that they become a kind of unwritten mental bucket-list.
Anyway, my point of writing this is not to be critical, or preachy, but to share a change I have been noticing in myself over the last couple of years. As well as sharing the fact that I feel very lucky to know these people and that I don’t take them for granted. They are part of the wealth in my life.
Thanks for reading.