In a survey of the most desirable occupation for a mate “poet” and “novelist” scored near the top. If you’re a poet or novelist yourself I can just see you now. You’re stifling a knowing chuckle and asking, “Did the respondents have the remotest idea what might be in store for them if in fact their mate had either of those careers–or was a painter, sculptor, dancer, composer, violinist, etc? Or were they expressing some romantic fantasy picked up from books and movies? Would it be a blissful and fulfilling match made in heaven or would it be full of turmoil and misunderstanding? Would it be any different than having a less artistically-bent man or woman partner? When all was said and done, would it be worth it?”
I’ve known creative people all my life–grew up in a family of sensitive, fiery Welsh musical people–and for the last fifty years of it have been spending time with writers, painters, and poets in particular, and reading the life stories of the most eminent creators ever to kick up dust on this earth and of their almost miraculous achievements and analyses of their inner psychological workings. This blog puts me in contact with thousands of them in 172 countries.
The end result is that to me artists are the most enthralling, most complicated, gall-darndest, stupefying, generally frustrating, and when in their brooding dark nasty moods the most demanding, maddening, impossible yet endearing individuals on this globe–in short, immensely fascinating, highly-productive, beautiful, focused, exasperating beings. Though they are often no more possible to understand than I can understand the mystery I call myself, and often torture to live with. Rascals like Dylan Thomas, Vincent van Gogh, or Jackson Pollack: there’s just, well, something irresistible about them.
In my most visited blog post–“The Characteristics of Creative People: What We Learn from Writers, Artists, Dancers, Musicians, and Actors”–I laid out just that, the characteristics of people who do creative things that conspire to make them able to do those things. I said creative people possess extraordinary energy and a compulsion to work, are willing to sacrifice almost everything else for their art with no hesitations, can produce tremendous volumes of work, value authenticity, integrity, and sincerity, are oriented toward the fullest development of their creative potentials, are resilient and able to overcome obstacles and to persevere, must have the ability to attract and hold an audience, are more self-confident, bold, and daring than the vast majority of people, and so on
I want to fill out the picture of these original, gifted, talented people who contribute so many ideas and such beauty and creative feats with a description of artists’ characteristics many people consider flaws, imperfections, but which I think if they are imperfections are perfect imperfections that in some convoluted upside down, day is night, night is day way also equip them for the artist’s unusual life.
Artists–creative people of all sorts–are often indifferent to social “rules” and values, and have far less respect for people in authority than the people around them. The artist’s main motivation I think is to be left alone. He craves the freedom to express himself, to experiment, to blunder, to go this way and that without rhyme or reason, and rules and external authority hold him back. Artists are often rebellious and uncooperative for the same reason, finding it extremely difficult and painful to do things they really don’t want to do simply because another human being says they should do it, no matter who he or she may be.
They are careless, disorderly, absentminded, forgetful, sloppy with details and matters they consider unimportant though their partner and their teachers and editors and such may consider them extremely important, and there may be conflicts. In a study comparing experienced writers with novices it was found that experienced writers forget what they have just written almost immediately after finishing a piece while novices remember their pieces in detail. Probably like every writer reading this I’ve had the experience many times of finding in computer files or drawers completely finished, refined, polished pieces–even finished novels–I wrote and completely forgot about. My wife-editor will often say, “Remember that thing you wrote about….” And I’ll say, “Oh yah, I forgot about that.” To the artist to say the work is DONE means that his job of doing the creative work–the fun stuff– is done, the fun is over; let someone else worry about the middling details.
They may be argumentative, cynical, and sarcastic, “too” direct–and tactless and intolerant. Sensitive to their every mood, and every shade of their moods, they are often overly emotional and temperamental, and easily hurt and quick to anger. Aware at every moment of what they are feeling and what they are thinking, they are self-absorbed in ways other people cannot fathom. Bundles of energy, their bodies and minds are perpetually active–over-active, electrically-charged in a way that a partner may not be prepared for or know how to respond to.
The Latin sine qua non means literally “without which, not.” It means the essential, crucial, and indispensable ingredient without which something would not be possible. I think that without their imperfections artists could not be artists any more than they could be artists without their positive creative characteristics. In other words, their imperfections are–for them–perfect.
© 2017 David J. Rogers
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6 responses to “The Perfect Imperfections of Creative People”
I agree with you! Imperfections does make an artist beautiful and an artist. However, as a creative person myself, it’s difficult to believe in that. I always think there’s something else I can edit and something else I can do to make my book better or get my name out there. It’s all a chaotic mess sometimes. I don’t think many artists stop and see the perfect imperfections enough.
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Robin, thank you for your comment. Yes, how lost artists would be without their imperfections. I think there may always be something that a writer, painter, actor, etc., can do to improve their work if only they took more time to refine it. Have you ever noticed that the greatest of them always talk about improving and work hard to make that happen? You seem to be a hard worker too.
I wish you the very best in your writing career. I hope you have many great successes. Let me know what happens.
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Good morning David,
It’s been a good long time since I’ve written and I regret not staying in touch more frequently.
While I love all your posts, there are some that ring so true for me. This one certainly does.
What makes each of us such distinct individuals with unique personalities will always be a mystery to me, but that’s alright. I don’t need to understand.
The fierce independence and sensitivity hit close to home. Actually most descriptors you used hit home. I can’t claim to being much of a creator in the last several months but the hope remains.
I went to my sister’s in Cheyenne, Wyoming to recuperate after my surgery. While there we discussed our thoughts on life and the world and how we wished it to evolve before us. At one point she looked at me and said “I’ve always wondered how we could have come from the same parents.”
I immediately felt different, almost less than.
Reading your post reminded me that accepting one’s self and embracing the nuances that defines a persons inner core values, wishes and expectations is part of nourishing the soul and accepting God’s gifts thankfully and graciously.
I hope you’ve been well, David.
Are you on the lecture circuit this year?
(Sorry if this posted twice)
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It’s so good to hear from you, friend. I’ve missed you. Yes, it’s something that gives one pause: the complex and simple factors, the unexpected experiences, and our sensitivities that often make us so different from our siblings. I am one of four. One who died was somewhat similar to me and we got along lovingly. I love my other siblings too, but we are very different. So your sister’s statement about your differences doesn’t surprise me at all.
I hope your recovery from surgery is now complete and wasn’t too hard on you. I have the feeling that your fallow creative period will come to an end when it’s ready to come to an end, and that while it’s been frustrating, it is serving some purpose that’s not yet apparent to you, but will be.
Here all is extremely good. Creative work-wise I’ve put about everything other than tying up my book for writers and writing blogs periodically aside. Every day now for a while my wife and I been taking care of our five year old grandson and enjoying every moment. What a joy he is. I’m reading lots, especially Charles Dickens, and am going to take another shot at the work of Philip Roth. I have a hunch he’ll win the Nobel Prize soon.
My wife retired from teaching and what can I say but that I think I am more in love than ever. I hope to hear from you again soon. Also, I’ll look at what you’ve been writing.
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My recovery is mostly complete now. I continue to be very fatigued and it’s been two months. I’m starting to wonder if it will always be like this.
Life in Virginia is very different but I’m so happy to be with my grad babies…who aren’t babies any more. Everyday when I meet the 8 and 5 year old at the bus stop they give me a big hug and say “Grandma, school was grrreat!’ That means everything.
You sound so happy and that delights me.
I hope you will have a beautiful Midwestern fall and perhaps you can take a hay rack ride or two with that little boy!
You’re on the mend though it is difficult. But you are making progress and that’s so important. You seem more fulfilled than you have been for a while. And that delights me. The move was good for you, I think. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how grandchildren’s little smiles and little voices make one’s spirits soar?
I am happy. I am always excited these days, and am being productive and spending good time with my family. We here receive regular reports on the weather in Virginia from my brother. He lives in Williamsburg, is a history buff, and moved there for its historical significance. He teaches history part time at William and Mary.
Thank you for your good wishes on our fall. Our weather has been unseasonably lovely for more than a year–moderate climate, no extremes–and we all hope that continues. Autumn is my favorite season, maybe because I was born during it.
Stay healthy and in good spirits. Let’s stay in touch, friend.
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