In October of 2009 I went to a librarian conference in Monterey, California. The morning after the horrors of Life, Death, and Kettlebells in Monterey, I walked down the street and through the front doors of the hotel where I would attend Internet Librarian 2009.
A lot of it was just what I expected. Redundant chatter about customer service, technology worship, lots of jaunty scarves, lots of glasses, and a whole lot of Powerpoint.
It was also where I heard the greatest thing ever: there is an opera based on Strunk and White’s grammar book, The Elements of Style.
After that sunk in, I thought: “That’s the most creative thing I’ve ever heard. How did anyone possibly come up with that idea?” I smiled all day. That smile faded as soon as I got back to my hotel room and voluntarily turned on the Internet and the TV.
I’ve begun spending significantly less time on the web. I’m watching fewer movies. I’m watching less television. I’m withdrawing from many of the things that turn me into a pure spectator.
It isn’t easy. I’m used to my routines where I turn off and watch and click. But the other day I got out of my truck after a 40 minute drive and realized that I had no memory of the journey.
But more and more often, that’s how I feel when I surface from a session on the web or a couple of hours spent in front of the television. As if I had not even been conscious. Where did the time go? I have no idea. I have no lasting memories of what just happened, only an awareness that I just spent X amount of time doing Y without much to show for it.
Nobody has held a gun to my head and forced me to participate. And I don’t worry about the times when I “waste” time doing something I truly enjoy. But I hate the fact that I spend so much time doing things that I know I would rather not be doing.
While my actions often suggest otherwise, what I truly enjoy is originality and demonstrations of creative thinking and nimble minds.
A copy of a copy of a copy
Hollywood is the land of remakes and sequels. The Internet is endlessly derivative. Television is the same. There is so little originality, and what is often called original is merely what is popular. Not always, but too often, I believe.
There are too many blogs about blogging. There are too many movies where someone in the preview runs into a glass door or gets hit in the crotch. There are too many TV shows about why it sucks to be married.
It continues because it is profitable. I can’t fault anyone for wanting to make a profit. I want it myself. But something precious gets lost when we quit creating just for the joy of creating.
I don’t consider myself an artist–especially not a tortured artist–but I do love to make things. It isn’t a need, but something I look forward to and love to lose myself in. Whether my writing or songs or performances are horrible or wonderful isn’t even the point. Certainly, I’d rather be liked than hated. But if I knew that everything I ever produced would be absolutely reviled, I’d still do it.
Because I get a giddy, childish joy out of seeing something I did and knowing that it wasn’t here before me. Maybe it sucks, but it couldn’t have existed without me. I thought of that.
And while I’ve participated in and created my fair share of redundancy and noise online, I’m trying to get back to what I love:
Creating for the sheer joy of it, with no motivation other than that it feels good and it makes me happy. Making something that someone sees and that shocks them just as much as it shocked me when I heard about the Grammar Opera.
This weekly series will be my attempt to explore where the creative impulses originate, what happens to them if they are ignored, and to pick your brilliant brain about how we can all break away from the sameness. The only reason the sameness persists is because we pay attention to it. We send the message that it is good enough, and that we will continue to pay for it.
I’ve definitely been part of the problem through my tacit support.
There is good reason to celebrate our individuality. You can do and make and think things that nobody else can. So can I.
I’m going to try my best to follow my instincts in this series and tune out all other motivations. I hope you’ll do the same and work to find something that only you are capable of. Something that makes you think, produce, and then smile and say:
I thought of that.
I’d love any suggestions for topics you would enjoy exploring.
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