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Help Desk 4 Creatives: Attend to Your Creativity

By Merritt Minnemeyer
arttimesjournal October 30, 2017

Creativity takes courage

It has recently come to my attention that I have a difficult time…paying attention. For most of my life, I have written this characteristic off as a flaw, tried to conceal it (poorly, it turns out), or dismissed it as just another quirk to add to the long list of what makes me “artsy.” For a very long time, I understood that label to mean that I was “weird,” “unconventional,” or an outsider. A blessing and curse, as I have experienced it.

ADHD indicators notwithstanding, in my early years I cultivated profound shame about my artistic nature. I have experienced heartbreaking and very real judgement, much of it self-inflicted. Only recently have I begun to figure out that the very qualities which I have attempted to suppress are among my greatest strengths! (AHA!)

C. Michael Minnemeyer
C. Michael Minnemeyer

I watched my father struggle with these trials too. A brilliant artist and architect, his inner free spirit contended rigorously with the need and responsibility to feed himself (and by extension, me). He was a dedicated provider. He was also, in business terms, a hot mess. His extraordinary talent excused him from many mainstream norms, but financial wellness eluded him. For better or for worse, I was spared my father’s genius. I was also spared his epic discombobulation. Mostly

As a young adult, I vowed that I would not succumb to the romantic trappings of the chaotic artist’s persona. Instead, I decided that my own creativity was best suppressed in favor of living a “normal” life (i.e. one wherein I could maintain a car payment). Yet I was, and am, determined to live creatively. Talk about inner conflict!

So when I recently picked up a book entitled “Real Artists Don’t Starve,” by Jeff Goins, I guffawed to myself. Goins’ missive is a fascinating exploration of some old and tired stereotypes that have been passed down to generations of creatives (and non-creatives) to the tune of “if you get a ‘real job’ you are selling out,” and other old stand-bys. This book brings into focus a question with which I have long been grappling: can I be an artist, and still thrive in the real world? Or must I keep my creative identity under wraps in favor of a more serious and responsible affect? Other verses include:

(retrieved 10/23/17 from http://www.thomasnelson.com/real-artists-don-t-starve)

creative logic hemispheres in the brain

Here's what I am getting at: as artists, we tend to be conditioned to believe that, and behave as if, we are of a different ilk than the general public. Perhaps there is some truth to that. Still, we are fundamentally human and have the same needs as anyone to sustain ourselves, feel validated, and use our talents to contribute to the greater good. Furthermore, our creative skills are often transferrable! We need not be relegated to a life of solitary confinement in a studio, or destined to forever eat mac ‘n’ cheese in between rehearsals. We can, in fact, live in the real world.

I don’t mean to over simplify a complex topic here, or be too cheeky. I do mean to offer some relief for those whom these issues are brought to bear. While our primary passions may lie with our primary conduit, there are worlds of opportunity in which we may apply our creative gifts in other – profitable – venues (see: marketing, programming, media content, events and fundraising, broadcasting, education, and even a Grants Manager in an arts service org ;) )! A full-time career in your chosen medium is a beautiful thing. If, however, you chose to follow a path that includes other outlets for creativity that allow you to thrive, more power to you! Those choices do not make you less of an artist. They simply make you, you.

line of people one has lightbulb going off

Fellow creatives, I am here to tell you that it is not in a person’s best interest to hide, or judge, or deny what is inherent in us. Allow me to give you permission (should you be seeking it) to be fully you. Not only in your own little corner feverishly working on your next project, but in every aspect of life. Your creativity is an asset. Period. Infuse who you are fully into every moment that you choose. By sharing yourself with your community, you help bring beauty to life. That is a gift, no matter how you chose to deliver it.

Merritt is the Grants & Funding Manager at Arts Mid-Hudson, an arts service organization serving Dutchess, Orange, and Ulster Counties in New York's Hudson Valley. She lives in Ulster County with her three vibrant sons, and two goofy pound pups, and one remarkably darling husband. Have questions or ideas for topics? Email merritt@artsmidhudson.org