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Kitchen Sink

The Ebbing and The Flowing

July 27th, 2008

Last night, on the way home from a movie, The Rock and I mused about creativity. A Matchbox 20 song played on the radio, and The Rock called it “formulaic,” and I responded that all of their songs are that way, even if I do enjoy them. He semi agreed, but said that 10 years ago, Matchbox’s songs sounded more unique, leading us both to wonder if youth naturally makes you “edgier” creativity-wise, if going commercial screws you in the end or if it’s a combination of both or neither (ah, PMS).

 

The Rock thought creativity reached its zenith in our early years, and that youth, with all its angst and yearning and searching, gives rise to more stand-out art. I arguscussed this point, because I don’t believe youth is the only factor contributing to higher creativity. I do think youth is a time of lowered inhibitions, boundaries, and propriety, so the tendency to care about stuff that sells, to play to the masses, etc. is devalued. Also, youth starts the process of finding yourself, which surely yields a burning intensity that fuels masterpieces, but overall, if you can put yourself in the place of writing for you, of creating for the sake of it, you’ll retain your unique voice and vaccinate yourself against losing your vision to someone else’s.

 

Regardless of age, I truly believe that when songwriters, screenwriters, authors, bloggers, begin to pay more attention to the forces outside themselves, and ignore the inner voice, their work suffers. Art takes on the veneer of these external voices and sheds its uniqueness. But as we age, I think our worlds tend to become smaller. Our influences and inspirations may shrink. As youths, our worlds beckon. We want to see everything! Feel everything! Be open to everything! Our minds and souls are fed constantly, informing and stimulating the creative process. As we grow older, raise families, and take jobs, being “responsible” makes it easier to remain stationary — in mind, soul and body. So I don’t think great art comes solely from a place of youthful suffering and angst, but I can understand why youth opens us, where age might figuratively and literally shut us in, make us more scared to say our truth and less inclined to shout it from the rooftops. But we learn again don’t we? Advancing age leads us down the path of worrying less what others think, and more about what fills us.

 

I’m fascinated by the creative process, and voices, and greatness. Youth certainly propels creativity for all the reasons The Rock pointed out, but creativity isn’t limited to youth (though he didn’t say that exactly, he said the majority of it was…). Some of the best stuff I’ve read is from people who are comfortable in their skin, who know who they are, and who don’t care if you like it or not. That kind of sureness comes at any age. Also, creativity evolves, adapts, matures as we do. The process doesn’t die with youth. Rather, we kill it or it’s killed by how we regard the process and what we do with it.

 

Anyway, our conversation soon segued to personal blogging, and returned to our question of how commercialization impacts creativity. I commented that I’d noticed some blogs losing their honesty, their connection with readers. I again wondered if when you “go big,” or “go commercial,” you just naturally sacrifice compelling content. Are these blogs just evolving with the author? Or did the author lost it somewhere along the way? Of course it goes back to the truth. Allowing your voice to bubble to the surface, and to write for the sake of creation lends writing a resonance and vibration that links you to readers. It’s real. But when the writing comes from a place of “ad revenues,” and “big britches,” and “ego,” nothing resonates. Outside the context of commercialization, writing/creativity are similarly affected by fear of what someone will say, hesitancy to show your real self, and a myriad of other factors.

 

All in all, it’s about overthinking. And it happens to all of us. Put anything through the filter enough times and creativity is stripped. If we find our voices stilted as I often do, it’s most likely a flow issue. What’s stopping us up? For some, maybe it’s the opinions of advertisers, editors, or producers. For others, something else has become bigger than the urge to create; perhaps “making it” shifted our priorities, or we worry what family will think. It’s not age at all, other than youth tends to prohibit automatically thinking yourself into stagnation or fear than at any other time of our lives. The art/songs/books/blogs that strike a chord with me are those that smack of the freedom to be themselves, that willfully put aside the urge to cater, or reflect any other voice but their own.

 

And 15 or 50, that’s hard to do. But when it happens, our creations sing.

 

At least that’s what I want to believe.

 

Edited to add: Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll step off my self-important soapbox of blither blather and just go have my period already.

 

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On July 27th, 2008, Chris said:

I agree with your thoughts – even “little” bloggers struggle with authenticity, comfort-zone, and voice. Opening up to any audience, be it a classroom, extended family, strangers (almost easier) – even when money’s not in the picture – is risky business for the soul.

You’re doin’ great San Diego Momma! (Just a baby blogger’s humble opinion.)

On July 27th, 2008, Jenn @ Juggling Life said:

Really interesting to think about. I really struggled with a book review I agree to do when I didn’t particularly care for the book. It was a first for me to have to consider the author’s feelings. And this is over very small potatoes, so I can see what a struggle it could become if you were “big.”

On July 27th, 2008, kate said:

when people have asked me about putting ads on my blog before i’ve always spun a diatribette about how i don’t my “work” to suffer from commercialism.

truth is, i just can’t get my shite together to get it done. i tend to be like that. but i agree with eveything you said, and i like how, during this pms-esque time, you were able to fight with the rock while conceding that he didn’t totally, really think such and such, but still…heh.

On July 27th, 2008, mandy said:

I think that when we feel a deadline to write (blogging can often feel this way when readers expect regular posts) it’s only natural that the pressure to write can overtake the impulse to write. This can happen to “big” bloggers or those of us on the fringes.

The idea of selling out to commercialization is a different one. I would imagine that any artist doesn’t feel like s/he has sold out… more that s/he’s taken a different bed in the path. I bet Matchbox 20 wouldn’t argue they’ve sold out, even if their original fans feel they have. Besides, can an artist continually reinvent his/her art?

Just some thoughts. I enjoyed your post!

On July 27th, 2008, San Diego Momma said:

I love all this adding to the conversation.
And I love/hate seeing the holes in my “logic.”
Plus, I’m enjoying the fact that I bebopped b/w two different issues.
Can someone just pass the corn chips?

On July 27th, 2008, slouching mom said:

but creativity may bloom the older we get as we rid ourselves of all that worry and concern about what others think of us.

On July 27th, 2008, foradifferentkindofgirl said:

I very much wish to take Mandy’s comment, copy it, and put it here under my name, for she said exactly what I think on this topic. I’ve been asked about putting ads on my blog, and I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about it. Would it mean altering my style, whatever that style is, or would I be considered a ‘sell out’ to the machine of it. I go ’round and ’round on those ideas, but a big chunk of my hesitation, I guess, is that I’ve never even considered how to go about doing it. Also, I can never say I never will do it, for I just don’t know.

I think I tend to overthink my writing sometime, and I’m dismayed or irritated when it takes me a long time to complete what amounts to a very simplistic post because I am too hard on myself. I agree that sometimes the sense of pressure that cane come with blogging if you’re a regular blogger and then hit a creativity wall can be a bit stagnating. I very much appreciate the people who come to my blog and read it and comment if they wish, but I hope the blog remains a place where I write for me, even if the audience grows.

I also think creativity, as you say, is ripe when we are young and uninhibitated, but I also hope it flourishes as we age and become less concerend about what people think of us and are comfortable in our skin.

Great topic!

On July 27th, 2008, San Diego Momma said:

You’re all putting so eloquently what I couldn’t. Thanks for enriching this topic with your thoughts.

I completely agree that age has little to do with it, and creativity is a mix of parts. But as we age and shed our “need to please,” our creativity does indeed flourish.

As far as ads, I would (and do) run ads (Google ads) on my site, but have them operate independently of editorial, so to speak. In my actual posts, I would only mention things I do and would use myself and I’d mention them with an honest assessment and in keeping with my style. So far, this issue hasn’t even arisen for me. Also, I respect anyone’s opinion to have the ad arrangement any way that works for them.

On July 27th, 2008, Kelly@SHE-POWER said:

Wow, I have so much to say about what you’ve written here. My mind is now fizzing and flying sparks as it searches through what to spit out first and I fear that I will get nothing logical out at all.

First, I like Matchbox 20, but Musicman, my husband, has always said “they’re not bad, but they don’t take risks so they’ll never be great”. I think he may have a point.

As for creativity being tied in with youth I think it can be because people do settle into themselves as they get older and they take on more responsibilities, which makes them less fluid. The less fluid you are, the more rigid you are and the less room there is for growth and the space needed to let your creative genius out. It needs room to breathe and stimulation and that often gets sucked out by kids, careers and mortgage worries.

But, and this is a big butt (like mine), it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to get “old” just because we advance in years and have kids. We can try to keep their childlike spirit and youthful enthusiasm alive and that will continue to feed the soil from which our creative greatness springs forth. I’m not saying this is easy but it’s worth it because holding onto that youthful vitality has so many other rewards in our appearance, health and overall levels of happiness.

And I think it is really hard to be a pro-blogger and not be tempered by commercial interests. How does one create fully when they are trying to maintain page views and advertising revenue? The ones who have made a living out of being 100% themselves have the best chance and even then, it must be anxiety ridden at times. Once you’ve given up your day job, then you have so much to lose.

Great post!

Kelly@SHE-POWER

and that makes them a bit more solid

On July 27th, 2008, Melanie @ Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said:

You’ve given me something to think about (as usual). I can see the desire to want to get paid. “Do what you love and the money will follow.” But, I also see the stress it could bring in wanting to please everyone.

On July 28th, 2008, manager mom said:

You write some thought-provoking stuff, here. I had a similar argument with my husband although instead of “young” insert “mentally unbalanced”.

I don’t think you need to be young to be artistically relevant. There are plenty of artists out there that produced some of their finest works in their old age.

The mental unbalance thing, though, that’s a tough one to dispute. For example, I think that some of my favorite paintings from Goya were his Black Paintings, which he painted when he was in his 70’s.

But it turns out that he was completely bonkers when he painted them

So, dunno.

On July 28th, 2008, KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said:

I am fairly new to blogging and am starting to find my niche, though it is still a work in progress. Thanks for your insight!

On July 28th, 2008, Trooper Thorn said:

A person can stay creative as long as they are willing to risk. We are more open to inspiration in our youth, but experience gives us the skills to act on inspiration better.

Except for sex. We are usually crap at that in youth, but with experience we can become… nope still crap.

On July 28th, 2008, Amanda - The Mom Crowd said:

sorry, I am late in the game here. I love reading your thoughts on creativity. For me I think being creative a muscle and the more you use it, the better you get. So you just need to be practicing to get batter. But then when do you sell out? Has Matchbox 20 sold out creatively? I would say that they probably have some say in their record. You still need balance, because if you are too wacked out it, it won’t make sense. For example, Kelly Clarkson’s last album. I was so looking forward to it. But she did her own angst-creative thing and I wished the producers had more say in it. I probably would have enjoyed it more. She took a risk creatively and it didn’t pay off.

On the blogger’s note: I run ads, but I don’t feel like they limit what I can and can’t say. What I’ve started hating is product reviews. We don’t do those anymore. I don’t like reading them. And I hate pushy people trying to get me to mention their site. (just needed to get that off my chest..)

On July 28th, 2008, matteroffactmommy said:

i read this post this morning while in the throes of getting the children ready to go to their respective ‘places of learning’ *cough* and just couldn’t come up with a good response, so i’ll give it a go now…

one of my favorite things about you and your blog is how much you admire the creativity of it all. how much you embrace others and the differences in each and every one of us. i, too love the qualities that make us different from one another, but you write about it in such a poetic way and with much fervor. i love reading every word you write.
(ugh, don’t take back the ‘good writer’ compliment – just go ahead and downgrade me to ‘passable’… didn’t mean to make this a lovefest, but it’s how i feel… ;)

On July 31st, 2008, Anna @ 3 Mommies said:

I used to be a big fan of Matchbox 20 and Rob Thomas in general. I have their every CD and used to listen to them nonstop. I think somehow it was the right music for that point in my life. I’m over it now, but I still have a crush on Rob Thomas. Don’t tell my husband. ;)

What I think happens with musicians is that their lifestyle changes once they gain popularity. It’s hard work getting to the top, and when you have it rough – whether it’s physically or emotionally – you have a lot of material to work with. Once you’ve made it though, you become comfortable. Comfort squashes creativity. Does this translate to blogging? I can’t speak from personal experience, because I haven’t been a blogger long enough to get “comfortable”. But I would guess that many bloggers will eventually run out of ideas and/or lose interest. Over time you’ll be left with the most talented long-timers and the newcomers. And that’s pretty much what you’ve got in the music business. :)

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