06 June 2013

Here comes the wave

Ride the wave, man. Just ride that wave.

John Cleese, in a talk on creativity, said that he was certainly not the most funny or gifted Python, not by a long shot. What produced some of the most hilarious bits of comedy of the screen age was not, he said, his natural talent. The thing that did it was this: when the others clocked out at 5:00 and were ready to hit the pub, Cleese stuck around. He stayed and wrote a bit longer, pushed through the flabby bits of frustration, and out came comic platinum.

Now, being the critical, atheistic sort, Cleese would probably not agree with me when I say that creativity is like a spiritual ocean. I say that because God is the supreme creative power in the universe, in all respects, and so all creativity comes from him. It can be twisted and corrrupted, of course, but it all originates from him. Engaging in the creative process is jumping right in with him, whether you know it or not. Now that creates a big space for argument, but I'll save that for another post.

Being in this creative ocean you either sink or you swim. In swimming, you're typically just treading water. You're waiting for a wave to carry you along, you're waiting for inspiration, for the creative impetus to happen. We all know what it's like to try and express yourself creatively when it's not there; it's not unlike swimming with weights around your neck or treading water with sharks circling around. It's uncomfortable and bothersome and you want to quit at first, in the same way one wants to quit treading water after a while when you only swim in the ocean once a year. You're just out of shape and not used to it.

But the longer one sticks it out, the more you put into it, the better shape your creative muscle achieves. You tune in to that creative wave more patiently and more quickly. You learn how to ride it more easily and effectively. In short, you get good at it. What sucks is the fact that it takes months, if not years, to reach any kind of comfortable level and even then it's not always easy. If you've trained your body for any kind thing, running short marathons, martial arts, or, hey, swimming, then you know how this is. One day you've tread down the miles with a grin, laughing at the attempts of the physical realm to hold you back. The next day you're huffing and cramping and crying out before the first mile's up.

It takes determination and determination sucks, especially in this age where a laugh is just a click or tap away.

I'm inspired by folks like Cleese who stuck it out and made something memorable, who made a splash in the sea of creativity, the ripples of which still reach out to us, young and old, and make us laugh and make us want to make art. Everyone out there has a platform to make comments but, to steal from my new favorite quote, it's so much better to make art than to make comments.

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