I have always struggled with identifying with words such as ‘artist’ or ‘creative’. Despite majoring in fine arts in college and spending hours at the painting studio, every time a friend would call me a creative person or an artist I would inwardly, and at times outwardly, cringe.
Over the years the situation has changed little. Somehow these words came loaded with attributes that did not seem to fit me no matter how hard I tried to fit them on. To me artistry or creativity implied great skill and talent which, be it because of the impostor syndrome or something else, I never felt I had to the degree that those I looked up to did – say Caravaggio or Bernini.
The way folks would use the word creative to separate themselves from others has always bothered me. “I can’t do that, I am not creative,” became both a distinguishing and a distancing, at times used to avoid doing something one didn’t want to do and at other times elevating the creative person above others. As if to create was a gift from gods rather than a random inspiration. It was as though getting an idea and doing something with it (my definition of creativity) was suddenly equal to quantum physics, available to a select few who were talented, lucky, gifted.
This division came with pressure to perform and succeed. It took me years to recognize the cycle I was in, the hustle to constantly create in order to live up to my ‘reputation’ of being a creative. What if I couldn’t do it anymore? What if suddenly one day I would just stop?
It was not until end of last year where I gave up the hustle. I gave up photographing for the sake of photographing. I took two months off and didn’t touch my camera once.
But then, slowly, inspiration started visiting again. It would come from posters, tv ads or reading something in a book. It would come from starting at a white wall and dozing off into my daydream.
Now when I create, I make sure it is for me. My excitement level usually tells me whether what I am about to create is truly for me, or for someone else. I learned how to say no to engagements that don’t thrill me.
I still don’t identify as an artist or a creative. I haven’t found a word that feels fitting to my persona and maybe I never will.
But what I learned is I don’t need to put myself in a box in order to be or do something I love.
So perhaps, for now, I will simply describe myself as a person who likes to notice light in the world and create visions with it in beautiful places, featuring beautiful people.
A good half of the art of living is resilience.
Alain de Botton