“The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.” ~ James Baldwin
I remember one of my friends in high school saying, “You are so creative” after an art class where, for my project I’d created a fashion show by drawing all the designs, curating the playlist and writing all the copy for the script as I described each piece that was being presented. (Yes, I was “extra” as a kid ha!) I think it was the first time it had been brought to my attention that I was a creative person. It was something I never really thought about because creativity is something that’s always been innately part of my being. I don’t think about being creative, it’s just how I am.
I started thinking about when I realized that I was a creative person, and it became clear that though I have several talents, I was always meant to be a writer. For a long time I’d forgotten that the first gift I ever asked for was a typewriter. I was only four. My grandmother bought me a yellow, plastic typewriter for Christmas, and I cherished it. I didn’t know how to type but it represented something unsaid in me, a story or stories I was born to tell.
My creative journey began in grade school when I started writing short stories and poems. I also used to draw (I wasn’t great), but I wasn’t bad when I really tried. In middle school I discovered that I could sing.
From then on I was in school and state choirs and talent shows. As an adult I started singing at weddings and corporate events for a while when I lived in New York. I was also a mainstay on the once robust open mic circuit frequenting venues like Cafe Wha?, Village Underground, and Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar, to name a few. One of my proudest moments as a singer was when the legend, Freddie Jackson, stopped me in Cafe Wha? after I sang to tell me I’d done a great job. But becoming a singer as I once hoped wasn’t in the cards. To reference something said by one of my favorite actresses, Yvette Nicole Brown, I had to go with the talent that loved me back, and that wasn’t music, it was writing. Though I’d proven I could sing, becoming a signed artist wasn’t in the cards. Writing has been my dominant gift that has opened more doors than my voice ever could.
Unfortunately it took me a long time to realize I have a gift for putting words together. Though it was always a great strength of mine, growing up I didn’t really know I was particularly adept at it. I didn’t really receive that kind of feedback until I was well into my adult years, when I started another blog and began getting positive feedback. The author Dave Eggers was one of the first people and the first professional writer who encouraged my potential and gave me my first paid writing gig with McSweeney’s back in 2010. Once I realized I was actually gifted in this area and had a voice, I felt more confident about my abilities and worked very hard to further develop them. It’s been a wonderful experience to realize that I can contribute creatively to the world and reach people with words. But though I love it, it’s not always easy.
There are times that are definitely harder to write and create than others, like when I’m experiencing high levels of stress. So when I was recently asked if I can always access my creativity I said it’s always there waiting for me to call upon it. I just need to get myself, at times, into the right space to express myself creatively. And I am actually learning to use my talents to diffuse anxiety and low energy moments. I’ve been inspired by stories of artists like the painter, Horace Pippin, who used his art as therapy after being injured in WWI.
Writing or working on other creative projects has been a great tool of healing. When I was writing a book, crafting characters, plot lines and dialog was really fun. It’s something I would like to finish. I also want to write a play. I’ve fantasized about a musical but that feels lofty. A few years ago I learned how to shoot and edit video. That was really cool and I will definitely do more of that. And though being a signed artist clearly isn’t in my future, I still love to sing. I revisited that passion a couple of years ago when I started auditioning for bands. Nothing came of it but I still hold the dream of performing again in my heart.
Being a creative person and being able to share your work and art is a very vulnerable process, but also rewarding in so many ways. It allows you to express yourself, share with others and even use your talents to heal and rebound from difficult times. I feel very lucky that I was blessed with multiple gifts that have given me this experience. It’s brought a lot of satisfaction and joy into my life. And I hope to continue to explore my creativity and create more art and projects that push me further and entertain and inspire others.
How do you express your gifts and talents? How does it make you feel?