By Raelyn Kaplan, TIWP Intern
I don’t know what to write (ironic because what I want to write about is creativity). I just can’t think of anything. But I guess that’s the antithesis of creativity—forcing out inauthentic pieces just to have a piece at all.
It’s when I stop thinking that my thoughts turn creative. My feelings turn creative and my thoughts pause altogether. It’s a flow of mindless mindful expression that lives freely on its own terms. It cannot be summoned. It chooses when it appears, and does most often within open hearts and minds. In my heart, I become a child again when I create. I am so proud of my work that I skip to my parents to show off what I’ve made, just like a kid with a fresh finger-painting, eager to find equal enthusiasm from Mom (like when it doesn’t go with the aesthetic of the house, but Mom is gonna hang it on the wall anyway).
I get a high off of tapping in to something so much greater than myself. I feel like everything I create already exists—the unmade artwork, unwritten poems, unchoreographed dances—they are empty templates waiting to be filled and brought to life by my own unique breath. It’s all there and just waiting for me to find it, hiding until a time comes when my thoughts become feelings that cannot be contained within the confines of superficial humanness surrounding us. This creativity, this impulse to spill myself into art of any kind, leaks through any attempt to deny it. Creativity demands the honor it deserves.
Everyday life in American society does not provide enough encouragement of the expression that keeps us sane. Can you imagine if Donald Trump picked up a paintbrush and a canvas instead of his phone to Tweet? I’m sure his painting would still convey a merciless anger, but it probably wouldn’t offend millions of people since he wouldn’t be opening his mouth. We are not meant to only speak! To analyze and overthink only block us from what we feel. And opening ourselves to feeling is the key to manifesting our innate internal art into external art.
If no one shared their creations, there would be no inspiration. Humanity has grown from the influence of its people, for better or for worse. But the most powerful growth within society comes from those who actively create, who are vulnerable enough to share themselves with the world and start a vital domino effect.
The undeniable freedom to create has kept me sane when nothing else has. It has released insight I didn’t even know I knew, and has been an escape from a chaotic mind. Creativity is a being of its own and takes over whenever I let it, when I stop thinking and let a flow of whatever just pour out. It’s refreshing and empowering and healing.
Now I’m thinking again about what to write so of course I can’t write. That’s the catch of good old perfectionism. The more I try to find the perfect thing to say, the more it runs away from me. It’s like when I finally learned to dance. I didn’t learn to dance until I turned eighteen, but had danced competitively for years. Dance is art. Art is not dance moms and drama queen daughters and snooty judges and oversexualized costumes on five-year-olds and teachers who reprimand you for the slightest hair out of place. Competitive dance searches for perfection and loses the meaning of dance entirely. While dancing this past year, I was put on the spot to improvise. I had always hated improvisation. Improv equaled panic; everyone is watching and it has to be perfect. But there’s no choreography to prematurely perfect except from your own—which doesn’t even exist yet—and how do you perfect something that doesn’t even exist? So in my panic I froze. I froze and my chest burned with pain, as if symbolizing all the tightness and rigidity I had always held within me. I could not trust myself to just move. I had been taught how to move, how to dance. I had been taught how to control, restrict and contort my own body into the mold everyone else wanted to see. I had learned what I’d been taught and couldn’t improvise because I’d never realized that I was powerful enough to let go. That was the paradox of the whole thing; when I let go, freedom stays.
I had to improv in dance again. In the next month leading up to the most profound experience of my eighteen years, I went through literally every aspect of my life and relentlessly explored why I did things the way I did. As if I only had one way to do them. As if I could only do them as I had been taught. As if I didn’t have choice. As if I didn’t have the control over my own life to let go of control. And when each action in my day to day life became a choice, I could dance. I could improvise because dance is natural creative movement- not superficial, robotic performance tricks. I had been using the guise of creativity to perform, not to actually create.
I remember so vividly the way I could feel the beat of the song beating my heart. Not constricting it, but resurrecting it after a long-awaited surrender. Jumping and spinning like the child I am inside and abandoning every fear that had kept me jailed in my own body for so damn long. Trusting my spirit and and ending a life lived for others—that’s creativity. Movement. And I’m not talking about angry little thumbs typing to Tweet. Movement through dance, movement through the hand holding the pen, through the hand holding the paintbrush or the hand strumming the guitar. None of this creativity is thinking. It’s freeing.