At age sixteen, I had to make a choice about what direction I wanted to take my education. My basic options were between Maths and English, and I chose Maths. It’s a decision I do not in any way regret.
Fast forward through university, and a few more years, and largely as a result of that decision I now hold a very normal job. I work in the finance industry in the city, and I love it, but there always has been (and I suspect always will be) part of me that wonders if I should have done something more creative…
For what I do, there’s a well-defined end product. We have a structured process that we go through, and I am constantly training people to be able to do my role. I am, ultimately, a cog in the machine. A cog in a machine that does good things, a well-oiled and non-squeaky cog, but definitely replaceable. The product of the business I work for would be the same whether or not I was involved.
The amazing thing about artists of all kinds is that they build things that nobody else could have made. The world is different (if only a little bit) because they brought their unique perspective to the table, and gave us that sculpture, that dress design, that website that encourages people to be themselves. Sure, other people could have done those things, but they would have done them differently and the result would not have been the same.
I’ve tried various sewing or knitting projects outside of work, but I’m always aware that projects I undertake are mainly for my benefit and, because I tend to follow very strict patterns, I don’t really count them as art. My craft drawer is full of half-finished work that got abandoned when I got bored. I still have the vague intention of returning to most of them at some point.
By far and away the most satisfying form of craft I’ve found has been writing. With writing, no matter how terrible the output, at least it was me. I’m trying to get braver by doing things like submitting the occasional guest post to Offbeat Home — which means that someone other than my husband and my sister might actually read something I’ve written.
But even this grand act of bravery still feels like a very small thing: perhaps if I had taken a different path at age sixteen then I would be better at this, and with the appropriate training maybe I could have been the kind of person who weaves stories for a living.
Am I wasting potential talent? What if I’m withholding some grand work of literature from the world because I didn’t take that route? (Being realistic I’m 99.999% certain I’m not.)
But the other day, I was given a compliment that shifted my perspective on being a part-time creative person.
I’m a sporadic letter writer. I’m not a great day-to-day correspondent, but I find that when individuals I love are going through difficult experiences I’m often drawn to write to them. The comment that changed the way I thought about writing was this: someone told me that I’ve managed to express something important about the situation they were in that they hadn’t been able to elucidate to themselves, and it helped.
And you know what? If all I ever achieve with my love of language is that sometimes I say the right thing at the right time to someone I love who is hurting, and it makes it a little bit easier for them, then that’s not a waste of anything. I don’t have to be a professional writer for that creativity to count.
What are the ways and outlets through which you express YOUR creative side?