It has felt like a lifetime since I’ve put pen to paper (actually, fingers to keyboard… It’s a metaphor, people)… And the words are bubbling inside me to the degree that I don’t know where to even begin. I just know that I’ve sorely missed expressing myself and the fluidity that that practice brings to my everyday conversations, communication and creativity in general. But, while this writing track has been a good one, there’s one nagging question: Why did I revamp my website, start writing and then….tell no one?
I have always had a hard time promoting myself. When I was the lead singer of bands, I rarely asked people to come – even to really cool shows. When I was touring solo, I would go to places like Atlanta and sometimes not even tell my cousins or friends that lived there that I was coming.
I’m not exactly sure how to unlock the stupidity of those decisions except to say that I think I was waiting to reach some pinnacle of musical perfection before I unveiled all that was Wendy Jans. Or some such nonsense. All I know is that I held my creativity close to me like a secret. Obviously, this is about the most idiotic thing you can do as a musician trying to sell CDs and make a name for yourself.
So what is behind this refusal to put myself out there?
I think there’s something inside me that fears people knowing me. And in truth, your creativity is where your most authentic self lives. So there’s no hiding if your creativity is coming from a real place. (Sidenote: This is why I scoff when people say things like “I’m not a creative person.” Everyone is creative – even if it doesn’t take a widely-acknowledged form.)
Putting your creativity out into the world is to bare your soul – to strip down to your undies and prance through the town square with panache. Panache is not just an underutilzed word that sounds like a delicious kind of pie, it is undisputed confidence and an unfaltering belief in oneself (with flair).
Having people who support and encourage you is extremely helpful In developing that confidence and panache. When you don’t give people that opportunity to support you because you’re hiding your creativity, you deprive yourself of that much needed support and on goes the vicious cycle.
And while I want people to see me in my underpants..I really don’t. (Again, being metaphorical, (and yet, not)).
But… But isn’t putting your creativity on display just about your ego?
This is something I wonder all the time. If I create something and then ask for people to give me approval and applause… isn’t that just my ego seeking praise?
My brain says maybe, but my heart says no. Because I think that, while there are certainly instances of that happening, when creativity is in its most pure form, it’s not in the pursuit of personal praise, but in the pursuit of generosity. For instance, if I was a baker and I made a super delicious panache pie, I’d want to share that sucker. I’d invite my friends over for a hot cuppa Joe and fat, creamy slice of that panache pie. Would it feed my ego when their eyes rolled back in their heads after each forkful? Maybe a little. But the real joy would come from knowing that I brought them joy. This would far exceed any feeding of my ego.
It’s the same with writing songs, drawing a picture, etc.. Art, music and other creative endeavors are scientifically-proven means of healing. That tells me that not only is creativity not an ego-driven pursuit, but a necessity in this world.
My prayer these days has been “God give me not only the boldness to express the creativity you’ve given me, but to have pure intentions when sharing them.”
Here are some valid reasons to share your creativity:
1. To encourage or console another person
2. To create an atmosphere of community
3. To give something of yourself for another to take ownership of
I was reading the childhood classic book Because of Winn-Dixie with my daughter the other day and there is this character in the book, Otis, a guitar player, who got into trouble because he was playing his guitar in the street. Unfortunately, in his little town, that wasn’t allowed and the sheriff asked him to stop, which led to a slight altercation, which led to his arrest.
In the book, Otis explains “…I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because music is better if someone is listening to it.” And I nearly choked up when I read that. Because it rang so true. Music, or anything creative, is better if someone is listening.
Creativity should never be about racking up praise or high fives or great reviews or awards to take home and put on your mantle. It should always be about giving a piece of yourself away – a charitable contribution to humanity. To create and then keep it to yourself is not just a shame – it’s a perversion of a gift you were given in order to be given away. Creativity is never living up to its potential if it’s just sitting in a basement or an attic somewhere and it certainly isn’t living up to its potential if it’s not even attempted.
So create, people!
Put on your best underpants and figure out what makes your soul sing. Then share that with the souls around you. Because music (or art, or poetry, or tap dance, or whittling, or building stuff) is always better when someone’s listening.