There are myths about creativity
in America and the West that are very negative. The creative are crazy, feckless, immoral, have no sense of business and are self-indulgent. These myths dissuade people from going into the arts.
I conducted a survey of the general public. I asked them what they thought were the most common personality traits of artists, writers and musicians.
Some answers: ‘Writers are crazy.’ ‘Musicians are drug takers.’ ‘Artists are always drunk.’ ‘Artists have to sacrifice their happiness for their art.’ ‘Writers are loners.’ ‘You can’t be a good mother and a good artist.’ ‘Artists must be troubled and have suffered.’
Most people have chosen to do a job they don’t enjoy. They spread negative myths about the creative to console themselves with the thought that artists are poor, suffering and miserable. It’s unbearable for them to think that writers, artists and designers are doing what they most want to do, something worthwhile.
To be creative you have to overcome the voices that say ‘It’s too risky, too reckless.’
One of my students, Gareth Whiting, switched from commercial law to study on the Fine Art degree course at Central St Martins (the world’s leading center for art and design education) in London. He produces extraordinary works that combine collage and painting. I asked Gareth about the pressures to choose a ‘safe’ career…
Did you feel under pressure during your life to do something other than art?
I went to an academic school and art wasn't considered very respectable. If the school says you are in with a big shout at getting into Cambridge, chances are you are going to do that. Early on as a lawyer, (the post 80s big bang years) the inference was that if it didn't make money it wasn't of any value. With the emphasis on ‘work life balance’ there has been in recent years I was able, by working for some enlightened people, to go part time which allowed me to study on the art foundation course at City Lit (provider of part-time adult education in London) and then Central St Martins College of Art.
Why did you give up your job to study at Central St Martins?
When you go into one of the professions, in my case, fairly high-end commercial law, it becomes the main focus of your life, personally and professionally. Later, I started going to exhibitions and then finding that I was carving out my own way of doing things at work. I realised that I was doing the job in a way that was very particular to me and somehow having an interest in art was part of it. I’d look at legal problems in a different way to others. The law and other professions have a lot of people like me who are frustrated creatively, but pressures to conform, family, courage and needing to ‘get on’ ultimately hold them back. Some do go for it though - my pal Elaine Jordan did the fine art degree at CSM and graduated a couple of years back. She was an inspiration as she is a lawyer with one of the biggest firms of all. There comes a time when you ask yourself if there is any reason not to do it. You ask all the clichéd questions about whether you’ll regret not having taken the chance and you get fed up with having ideas you want to pursue but not having the time or energy to do them in the depth that you’d like to.
Rod Judkins MA RCA is an artist, writer, and professional public speaker, delivering lectures and workshops that explain the creative process and help individuals and businesses to be more inspired in their lives and work. He is author of the international bestseller, Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self.
Copyright Rod Judkins 2013