Calling All Artists: Thoughts On What It Means to be Creative

Artists are creators. We’re birthers.

We are constantly straddling the worlds of ideas and action, and are the conduit through which thought-forms assume physicality. A symphony is born in our heads and then years later comes to life through an orchestra. The line of a lover’s neck inspires the swoop of a staircase.

We are constantly ferrying between the mental and material, the unborn and the living. We’re a bit like Charon, ferrying souls over the waters of the Styx — except that our river we cross is that of the subconscious.

We exist in the space between.

Ours perhaps isn’t as grand of a task as his, and the fate of souls may not depend on our duties. Indeed, our creations may be quite humble: a dream catcher crocheted with yarn; an Instagrammed picture of seashells; a squash soup dreamed up from scratch.

Unlike the engineering majors that our parents praised, these creative aspirations are more subtle in their utility. Ours aren’t apps to save the world or simplify money transfer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Instead, my poems prefer to sit on a shelf and look pretty — mostly for my eyes only. My Instagram page has no monetization or branding that I have yet identified — but scrolling through my small squares of coffeeshopscapes and #vegan food pics brings me a quiet satisfaction.

My creations — a sketch here, a photo there — aren’t even big enough to be called projects. They’re just yearnings, creative sighs, exhales of color and words as brief as a slice of late afternoon light across a kitchen table. And all I know is I want more of them. Perhaps an overarching theme, project, focus, will come later. Maybe not.

For now, my art eludes categorization. Not because it’s so radically defiant of existing genres, but because it’s so mundane.

I’m always figuring out how to explain my scattered creative endeavors to Tinder dates.

“So, what kind of stuff do you do?” they’ll ask, in a crowded happy hour din.

“Oh, well,” I say, stirring my drink, “Sometimes I write these little poem things. It’s hard to explain.”

If I’m totally honest, what I’m best at writing is half finished journal-entry-essay-type-pieces that hold great promise. I never know if they’re fiction or non-fiction or what, because I never finish them.

Whether you’re like me, on the cusp of a wave you can’t name, or riding some a beast at full clip, we’re augurs. We gaze up at the sky, get a whiff of a scent we just can’t name, and forecast upon it.

One of our favorite things is to walk along on a crisp September morning, with a bitter coffee in hand, leaves smelling faintly of regret. You remember a heartbreak from months ago that has since caramelized into self-knowledge, and you smile to yourself.

Or maybe you walk into a bookstore, a hot tea in hand, and search half-heartedly, yet desperately, for a book that will speak to you. To understand you, to tell you your fate, to make you feel less alone. That’s what our hearts beat for.

And these feelings are what we strive to pull, fully formed, from the womb of our subconscious. Sometimes they come out looking different than we’d imagined, and sometimes we damage them a little in the process of pulling them out. But they’re there, all the same, blinking out in the world.

And they’re breathing on their own now.