Freedom and Creativity
Living the Creative Life
Minimalism, taken to its most extreme, would leave one with nothing extraneous, including relationships, and result in complete freedom to pursue self-realization. This idealized state is attractive to anyone trapped by various limitations and stresses, and is particularly attractive if you have unrealized creativity. A life without financial and personal obligations is pretty much everyone’s answer to the great “If only…” question. Nice work if you can get it–but you have to want it to an almost sociopathic extent to be willing to do what it takes to get it.
Those who do have relationships and responsibilities, particularly the parents of young children, know that extreme minimalism would be, for them, the ultimate self-indulgence. Thus a more moderate approach can pay off–a simpler lifestyle, elimination of debt, and a deeper connection to one’s community. Such an approach enables one to have the time and wherewithal to thrive creatively. Having a steady income, even if a small one, can take away a lot of the worry about food and rent that can freak out and shut down one’s fountain of art.
Chase Night recently wrote in his blog Unbridled Existence about the concept of bivocation, which is what future pastors learn in seminary when they are being prepared for the likelihood of needing a secular job to support the church job. He considers its application to the person that wants to quit the day job in order to become a writer or artist:
…before you turn in your resignation and send your family spiraling into the bottomless abyss of pay day loans and pawn shops, maybe you should take a page from the BiVo Handbook and try unbridling your mind before you unbridle your body. Because trust me, the bridle of being Broke Ass is the most infuriating bridle of all.
Extreme minimalism can be a remedy for a lot of ills. If you have one of those moments of epiphany when you realize that everything you have, that everything you’ve done so far, doesn’t work, doesn’t suit, and doesn’t merit sustaining, nothing cuts to the chase better than to sell all your stuff, eliminate all your mementos, wave goodbye to your people, and travel lightly in pursuit of your dream. Under those circumstances, such freedom would not be a luxury, but a viable path.
It can kill your art, though. Too much freedom from attachments and the trials and tribulations and connections that most of us have with one another and the way we live our lives creates a rarified Utopia, and does not provide the crucial feedback that makes art connect on a human level. It is true that creative work is best done in isolation–plenty of writers and artists find their work cannot happen any other way–but it is the stuff of everyday life that shapes them and inspires them. Too much freedom, in fact, can actually stifle creativity. It can work as a temporary option, but as a regular thing it can actually cause dissipation when we’re overwhelmed by the unlimited possibilities of unlimited freedom.
Dan Goodwin of the blog A Big Creative Yes has written extensively about creativity and the circumstances under which it thrives. I had a chuckle at this bit:
Too much freedom of this kind means that instead of a carefree state of pink, fluffy happiness and running through cornfields with our arms open wide, we feel more like we’re gagged and backed into a dark damp corridor with every exit boarded up, and the roof caving in.
It’s like renting out a DVD of The Sound Of Music, and when you start watching you find it’s Eraserhead
Either option, extreme or moderate minimalism, will work as a way to optimize your life for creative work. Just showing up at the desk or the easel or the piano for an hour a day, every day, is enough to get things going, and in fact can produce four novels per year. Yes, four. Very moderate minimalism can provide that.
We all know the saying that life is stranger than fiction. Staying connected to the mundane–albeit with a nicely pared down and minimalist approach–seems to me to be one of the greatest possible creative resources an artist could desire. If chucking everything for the pursuit of a dream is something you’re considering, take a moment to look before you leap, and see if the dream isn’t already close at hand.