I am sure that most of us, as adults, feel like this while breaking a move:
When, probably, we look like this:
Or, while singing karaoke, we feel like a multi-octave singer:
When, in reality, we may lean more towards the amateur side:
Even though we know, deep down, that we may not possess some sort of “innate” artistic talent, why do we still choose to partake in acts of creativity? Of course, we as people gain enjoyment from creating and participating in art. It’s been proven how engagement in creative matters is directly linked to plenty of mental health benefits, such as stress relief and a positive self-esteem. Art is something we, as kids, were akin to doing without any shame, whether it was shown through random scribbles, unapologetic singing and dancing (90’s kids — I know you remember doing the Macarena too), etc.
So, why is it that, as the years grow, we engage in this less and less?
After reading Lynda Barry’s graphic novel, What It Is, I would credit this to our sense of personal self. Somehow along the way, whether it was in the school, the home, etc, we began to lose a sense of comfort with art. No longer did were we creating to simply create; rather, we began to also value our work in comparison to the others around us. Berry depicts this type moment below:
Suddenly, if we felt our art/talent wasn’t as good or better than the ones around us, we, more times than not, internalized this sense of inability. “Well, [insert name here] can [insert creative activity here] better than I can, so I must not be too great at it. I should probably stray away from [insert creative activity here] from now on.” We, as kids, notice our peers being rewarded and praised for their talents, and because we’re so young, we tend to naively be unfair towards ourselves, believing that, in order to engage in whatever creative activity, one must have “talent.” Yet, despite this immature naivety, we tend to carry these beliefs into our adulthoods, furthering developing a personal resistance towards creating art.
Of course, if one desires to pursue a professional career as a painter or dancer, a certain eloquence or expertise is expected. But, as we become older, we tend to become less uninhibited, less engaged with the activities we once felt joy from, mainly because of the fear of seeming untalented. “In order to do art, I must have the talent first.” This mindset, developed very early on, is what discourages us from perhaps taking that intro to art elective, or auditioning for that school play — opportunities that could provide us with a healthy means to cope with the adult anxieties of life, or, better yet, discover a new niche we could easily blossom in.
“Talent” or “no talent,” engaging in art we enjoy is something we, as adults, should make an unafraid effort to do regardless. In order to really tap into our creativity, we must rid ourselves of the fear of being “wrong” or looking “silly.” The pages of What It Is are unapologetically dense, filled with a stream-of-consciousness hodgepodge of brainstorming thoughts:
As you can see, these images and words above don’t necessarily connect or immediately match with each other. But, as a published novel, obviously Berry purposely intended for these pages to be seen this way. She is making a point about creativity here– in order to actually be creative, we must be willing to accept our imperfections, and to embrace them as well. To create not with self-imposed judgement; rather, to tap back into that mind space of how we created art as kids: without thinking too much. This is a reason why many adults with “average” or “below-average” talent still turn back to forms of creative expression–whether it be singing at the karaoke bar, or dancing at the nightclub, or taking a local pottery class for enrichment– to connect back to the simple, freeing nature of our kid selves.
This child-like desire to create or express shouldn’t be repressed out of developed, internalized insecurity; rather, it should be embraced. Yes, a certain level of talent is required to pursue anything professionally; but, if you consider yourself a below-average painter, but you still find the actual act of painting as therapeutic, then you would have another positive outlet that allowed you to handle your emotions productively. Using creativity is not only a means to create an end product– the process itself what makes art therapeutic and what still attracts many adults towards creating. It is a means of remaining true to our inner child who created without apologies or personal judgment, which allows us to flourish personally as adults in a rather complicated world, regardless of whatever kind of end product we may produce.