People love to get all sentimental and sappy about the “Creative Life.”

They love to extol how great it is to live the “creative life” “and “find passion in your  creativity” and “inspire creativity in children” and a lot of other shit like that. Craft stores are stocked to the ceiling with cutesy little doohickeys that proclaim the wonderfulness of being creative in insipid cliches—“Enjoy the Journey,” “Lose Your Fear of Being Wrong,” “Live Out Loud” “Follow Your Heart,” “Be Inspired,” “Live, Love, Dream,” and my personal favorite, “Live Your Dream”—mostly because I am always put in mind of that one dream where I’m on a stage, naked, sitting on a toilet, and trying to play the oboe with enormous hands.

First of all: they don’t need to worry about “the Children.” Children emerge from the womb ready to cut and paste and scribble on walls and lose scissors. All you have to do to inspire creativity in children is to flip the power off and suffer through the withdrawal from digital media.

But—as you might surmise—the professional “Creative Life” is messy and weird and scary, and incredibly frustrating. All those little crafts-y geegaws are for amateurs. If you are a professional creative, you can’t afford to wait to be “inspired;” or “Live Your Passion” and “Enjoy the Journey.” You pretty much show up and go to work like everybody else. Too much passion can make things exhausting and the “Journey” is the crap equivalent of a badly planned downtown of a mid-size, financially strapped American city–full of potholes and dead possums and broken glass. And, most terrifyingly, you can’t afford to be wrong too much, either.

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For the professional creative, there’s usually never enough money for the things you desire, even if you did, it never quite fits the image you have in your mind. You’re like: “I like this part, but if this or that were just a little bit longer or shorter or thicker;”  or “I like that thing, but it would be better in a different color or without all the tassels.” Or whatever. So you try to create these things you have in your mind’s eye—the things you want exactly as you want them. And even then, you’re never quite satisfied with it. You work and work and work and work and make all these mistakes with expensive materials and spend vast amounts of time either thinking about it, or doodling it, or working on it, and you break your tools, and rend your garments and drink bourbon when things take a particularly tricky turn and throw things against the walls when they don’t turn out.

But—sometimes they do turn out.

 

Sometimes they turn out better than the thing you had in mind when you started. Things happen while you work—hands to work, hearts to God, as the old Shaker saying went.

Sometimes—if you are very lucky and have put in the time—your work leads you into that magical place where time flows and your body and mind flow along with it, free of passions and frustrations and worry about money or mistakes or whether you are enjoying the “journey” or not. You are the chisel and you are the hammer and you are the wood and you are the sawdust.

There is no journey.

There is no living out loud, or chasing of dreams or inspiration or whatever.

Just sheer will and muscle slowly freeing a shape from a block of wood. Sometimes it looks like a horse. And that can take you on any journey you can imagine.