The Curse of the Creative

talent is cheaper than table salt. what separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work. -Stephen King

growing up, my home was an inspired one. positive, creative energy burst through windowsills and slid under door cracks. creativity was abundant in the air we breathed, the energy that kept me and my siblings full of sparkling ideas and grand thoughts. my mother fostered our brilliance through her endless stream of encouraging words and firm position as our number one fan. no matter what idea i had, it was a great one. no matter what skill i wanted to learn, she imagined the possibilities right along with me. she made it very clear that there was absolutely nothing i couldn’t do, achieve and be if i put my mind to it. and we learned not only through her words, but her actions as well. it seemed like no matter what she did, it turned out on the winning side of the coin. whatever creative pursuit she was on at that moment, she went after it with bold, fearless passion. i admired that. and what an impressive list of pursuits she has had:

-when i was five, she sang lead and played the keyboard in an all girl band called Lady Deluxe. i remember being in the basement during their rehearsals and dancing around to their cover of Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody.”  probably the reason it’s still one of my favorite songs to this day. i remember shows downtown at Hart Plaza. i remember music infusing every part of my life.

-when i was eight, she went to travel school and started a travel agency specializing in cruises and vacation packages. i learned so much about the travel industry i would later list it on my resume.

-although it was a pretty successful business, she bored of that after a few years and opened a flower and hat shop, where i learned how to make at least 30 different bouquets and enough about flowers and color combinations to last a lifetime. that was my first official job. the hats were a hit as well, the sunday church ladies found a nice home there.

-but, she was a writer at heart. after that, she wrote three incredibly funny, well-written screenplays (which i’d stay up ALL night reading the moment she’d finish.) that somehow garnered the interest of Babyface and co. during the whole HavPlenty days. you snooze you lose though, and after not following up with that opportunity, it somehow fell through.

-next, she recorded a gospel cd and began performing at churches all around Michigan. i’d been harmonizing with her all my life so naturally, i sang backup on a number of songs. she sold a good amount of cds, and i was added as the lead to an all girl group a la Destiny’s Child via her producer and sent to perform around the midwest. during this time, my mother, a la Tina Knowles, sewed outfits and endless pieces of elaborate beaded jewelry for me to wear (she’d been making and selling her jewelry for as long as i could remember).

-when that was done… she began selling corporate health and life insurance, landing big account after impossibly big account all on the strength of her knowledge, will, and likability.

and well, you get the point. as i get older, i’m starting to realize that this tendency to flutter between my various talents and interests is both congenital and learned. there is so much of my mother embedded in me, it’s nearly comical at this point. during my 30 years on this planet, i’ve *clears throat* had two short stories published in 7th grade. wrote an entire book of Shel Silverstein style children’s poems in 10th grade and decided i would write children’s books and do my own illustrations. created a whole portfolio of paintings, sketches, and drawings in 11th grade and decided i would be an art major. developed a summer camp for the kids in my neighborhood and decided i’d open a youth center concentrated in the arts. went to an ANTM audition on a dare and got called back for two further auditions. didn’t make it to meet Tyra, womp. joined an R&B girl group and decided i would be the next Brandy/Monica/Beyonce. made money while in college braiding hair in any style you could think of and making customized tank tops with cute sayings on them. made all the jewelry i owned for an entire year until other people started asking me to make them items (still own a pretty hefty supply of beads, gems and jewelry making materials). did photoshoots of my friends and public events after reigniting my love for photography and decided i’d be a wedding photographer. and finally, decided to be a writer, started a couple blogs, became an editor for an online mag, and wrote a novel (through many, many battles with my yet to be diagnosed ADHD). …then scraped it and wrote another based on my fiction blog. lol

so… great, i have a lot of random talents. thing is, so do a lot of other people. i read that quote above from Stephen King a few weeks ago and stared at it for a long while. i thought about all the extraordinarily talented individuals i know and the talented people they know, and i realized that he’s right, there will never be a shortage of amazingly talented people on this earth. i thought of all the great things my mother has done, and how they could’ve been just that much greater if she’d chose one talent, and stuck to it. and then used that momentum to allow for freedom to pursue other interests.

then i made the decision to stick to one thing professionally for now, and that’s writing. because sometimes, when you’re good at a lot of things, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the possibilities. a friend of mine calls this the curse of the Creative. it’s easy to let your interests pull you onto paths you don’t necessarily need to be on at that particular moment in life. an overload of talent can be paralyzing if not carefully utilized. and when things have always come easy to you, it’s even easier to quit when easy is no longer enough, and it takes actual work on top of talent to cross that hump from having a string of small successes to reaching that defining, sustaining success. i won’t allow myself to quit another thing so, it looks increasingly like there’s simply a lot of hard work ahead of me.

will i still love to sketch and paint and sing and do photography, and do i still want to learn how to play the guitar? yes! and i definitely want to someday open a center for youth focused on developing the creative arts. will i foolishly try to pursue all of these endeavors at once from now on? absolutely not.

because focusing on your focus is a lot easier when you actually have one.

have you ever been afflicted by the creative curse? what’s your solution to staying focused?  i wonder if there is something akin to this in math and science, like.. “do i attend this algebraic geometry conference, or do i take this internship for quantum physics? i just can’t decide!” lol.

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5 comments

  1. I LOVE this post!!!

    It’s so perfectly written.. And umm, the amount of crap you’ve done makes me feel a certain way.. but it’s a healthy jealousy..
    Focus is hard when your mind is scattered in several directions.. I have my mind focused on one thing and I’m still having a hard time!

    1. thanks Nick. :)

      “scatterbrained” happens to be my mom’s favorite thing to call me. she has some nerve. lol.

      looking forward to seeing your focus birth your success. :)

  2. In my MJ voice, ‘You are not alone…’
    Girl, I do so much-too much -then get mad when I feel overwhelmed. Love the honesty in the post.
    I am a teacher by trade. However, I blog, wanted a cupcake company 2 years ago now I just make em all the time, I scrapbook (big time) photo journal, coupon, make sweet tables, tutor, provide financial advice, organizer, back in the day hair model, event planner and I just discovered my green thumb.
    But you know what Muze-being a jack of all trades is better than being just a jackass!!!!

    1. hahahaha. i love that last line.

      wow. you’ve done a lot! from the looks of it, a lot of people have this problem. i’m really glad it’s so common because i was starting to think i really need some focus therapy. lol.

      i dabbled with the green thumb before. i wanted to plant an urban garden. i think those are so necessary… and they beautify the neighborhoods. my other love is buying old furniture and painting, sanding, staining, etc. remaking it so it’s beautiful once again. most of the furniture in my old apartment was pieces i was given or thrifted and diy’ed it back to life. lol

  3. I am late to this party but glad to be here. I just finished writing a piece about being a Jill of All Trades myself, and am in constant rumination about the subject. I am forcing myself to unhide my writings and to finish that book/maintain that blog/share it!

    Meanwhile a tillandsia project sits to my left, a box of beads for more jewelry-making to my right, and a laundry list of cooking, gardening, fashion, and travel business ideas and plans hold down the corners of my room. All that to say, I feel you, and we must not lose ourselves in the wealth of it all. It is our wealth, we just need to learn how to manage it. Thanks for writing that.

Say it loud, say it proud... just not in all caps.

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