If I paint by numbers I am assured of a certain picture
The outline is the same as the image on the box and all I have to do is simply choose colours one by one
Mechanically completing a version that someone else created
And I can say I painted
Faithfully following the directions set down by another
I am allowed certain artistic deviations from the instructions
If I choose red instead of blue
Nothing really matters
The sky looks a little rosier
The grass is purple
The outline remains the same
A sheep in a paddock beneath a vast sky
But if I draw wings
Then the sheep can fly
And that changes things except
Sheep don’t fly
And paintings aren’t real
*If only life was simple, cookie cut, we were born with directions – fate sewn up neatly with a needle and thread – lives mapped out, signposts clearly marked and coaches yelling “not that we you idiot, this one” whenever we indecisively wandered off the path.
Instead of this infernal tip toe process over stepping stones that keep rolling over and doing our ankles in. Sinking into unchartered waters – the constant decisions that have to be made and an endless array of choices.
God gave us free will and with that he sat back and laughed and rubbed his hands together “let the entertainment begin”.
Or that’s how it feels sometimes.
Last night as we were going to sleep, Steves Ipad is glowing and I asked him what he was reading. Poetry.
He begins to read aloud a portion of the poem. It’s about a woman who is experiencing anguish due to the disgrace her son has caused. It’s a sad poem but I have no empathy for her, only for her son.
There are apparently a few great common fears that afflict every human being – the fear of death, the fear of poverty, some others that I can’t recall and then there is the fear of what others will think of us.
Which is quite irrational when you break it down
If we think people are commentating on a one sided version of us that they have made up in their own heads – why would we give credence to their opinion? In fact, most people aren’t thinking about us, they are probably more concerned with the waistband of their pants or whether they have brocolli in their teeth.
And it’s neurotic to believe otherwise and probably a little vain and selfish too. Who the hell are you that people should spend time thinking about you? Yet none of these fairly sensible revelations are what fixed my hang ups in this regard
My blog did.
Because my blog allowed me to grow and explore and start figuring out who I am. The fact that I probably know less about who I am now then I did when I began doesn’t matter. What matters is – if I don’t know who I am then why would I care if someone thinks that they do? That’s insane – they couldn’t possibly.
At first writing on this blog was deeply uncomfortable and in the early days I probably deleted posts just as often as I wrote them. Now I churn out seven or eight heartfelt, authentic and personal posts a week and don’t even think of deleting them.
I’m not arrogant in that. If anything I am humble. The more I figure out, the more I am aware that there is a vast pool of things that I know absolutely nothing about and that includes myself. Human beings are infinitely teachable as long as we remain open and curious, so that’s all I can try to do.
I read, watch, observe, research and learn because I have many questions and problems that I want to solve and an interest in digging deeper. Writing opens us to the world, it is a dialogue that we have with ourselves and others. This is why having a blog and writing every day is so valuable. We are constantly forcing ourselves to learn and grow as a way of explaining concepts.
Seth Godwin publishes a blog post every single day and has done for years even though he is famous and wealthy and certainly doesn’t make any money for what he shares for free. He does it because he is constantly learning, and having a commitment to writing a blog post every day means that he has to think up something to write a blog post about. To write a blog post a day means he has to have a conversation with himself, find a problem, find a solution and that is all writing is. Problem solving.
I was watching a UTube interview with Jordon Peterson about creativity last night – it was excellent by the way and full of common sense, which is why I enjoy his theories.
He told a story that really does explain this innate fear that humans have of being different and sticking out. Jordan explains it this way
Zebras are camouflaged. It’s not obvious when you look at a single animal because you see bold black and white which seems at first the opposite of camouflage. A lion – now that’s camouflaged- it blends with the grass, but a zebra? No, not so much.
The zebra is not designed to blend with the landscape. The zebra is designed to disappear into the crowd. The zebra is camouflaged against the herd. Lions can’t hunt them unless they find an individual that sticks out due to an infirmity or difference. Lions discuss their target before they hunt as a pack. If they don’t know who their target is, then the pack can’t hunt.
Researchers found zebras impossible to track individually because they would look down to their notes and when they looked back up – poof! They had no idea which beast they had been studying.
So they got a bucket of red paint and they painted whichever one they singled out with a spot. Great, now the zebra is trackable! Guess what happened? The zebras that stood out got eaten by lions.
We humans innately understand this. We used to be part of this hunter/hunted landscape. It’s probably still an ancient impulse in our lizard brains.
So we aren’t just fighting a conscious desire to blend and avoid awkward social situations, we are also fighting biological impulses like ostracisation which would lead to being dangerously set aside from the tribe or standing out as a possible target, which makes us easier to hunt.
Yet the creative person also realises that in order to have their work stand out and be of value, it has to be different, so creatives have to get over all these hurdles of doubt, discomfort and anxiety and fulfil their artistic impulses.
For what? To be famous, noted, quoted, make lots of money? Ha! No. Those things can all happen of course and as many famous entrepreneurs and writers are part of the creative strain of the human race – it sometimes does. But there are millions of books on Amazon and millions of talented and creative people who will never be well known. Creatives don’t create for glory, they create because it is their personal story. That rhymed. I’ve been writing a lot of poetry, my head has begun singing. It’s nice.
And if they don’t live according to their story? They will began to atrophy inside. Which is what happens to me when I can’t write. I never suffer from writers block – quite the opposite, but I do get in my own way sometimes and say “that’s enough” as I did last month.
May I repeat – for those that need to hear this – worse decision ever! If you’re driving mechanism, your very life force is designed to create – then that is what you should do or you will suffer the consequences. And not everyone is like that – we all have different personalities, propensities, underpinning forces, but if you are lucky enough to figure out even that much – what drives you, what interests you and what pulls you magnetically forward -then you’re just lying to yourself if you don’t follow it. And lying to yourself is corrosive.
We all share a common outline as a species – but within that outline are vastly different individuals. We get to choose the colours with which we paint. Not only that, we should choose the colours. These choices determine how much responsibility we are willing to take in life – for our lives. If we want to live a meaningful life then we should take on as much responsibility for our colours as possible. We get to draw on extra bits if we want. We choose to fight like hell to evolve and grow, or we choose to remain dormant and atrophy. I used to have so much sympathy for the anxious, after all I’ve lived there too but in the end sympathy didn’t do a lot for me.
We don’t get to choose a life that is easy. Life is extraordinarily difficult. But we do get to choose our hard. It’s hard to overcome my innate desire to disappear into the herd of zebras and simply be invisible, but a life without creativity and growth is putting a sword to my soul. A month off really reinforced that for me this time.
So I picked up my pen and drew myself into a lion. Creatives can change the plot like that 🦓 🦓 🦁 😉💕
A large part of this blog post was inspired by the Jordan Peterson UTube video I watched. He is, as always, far more eloquent then me. I’ve added it below.
Header photo thanks to Etienne Stiencamp Unsplash