Stephen Fahey: Inside the secret life of a Creative

This is for all those who have never written a song or a book, or carved a table or proved a mathematical theorem, or gone days with food or sleep or showering just because the calibration on of telescope is still off by two entire millimetres. We’ve all heard of these people. Some of us know them. Some of us went to school with or were taught by one or some of them. People know that they exist, that they’re out there in garden sheds and laboratories and garages and basements and office cubicles. But too few know what it’s like for them, inside their heads and their hearts, from day to day.

The archetypal „Creative” is unkempt and grumpy, or outright antisocial. They drink or smoke heavily and, outwardly, they are the opposite of normal human beings. But they also imagine and then produce the most beautiful feats of engineering. They cure diseases. They invent wifi and television and the armoured personal carrier. They write the most terrifying and suspenseful novels. And they compose most moving music in the history of humanity. Odd as it is, these scruffs are the source of so much beauty. And this paradox is mainly caused by two things.

First, the rarity of these individuals isolates them from society. They become used to, and often dependant on, their own company. But once they also discover the exquisite and unique pleasure of the doing of the thing they are understandably permanently distracted. For far more precious than any financial reward or fame or accolades or any worldly objective reasoning, is the joy experienced in the doing of the thing. The singular heat in the moments of grinding out the data, of finding the correct angle from which to approach a problem, of proving that the numbers add up as predicted, and all the countless other forms of necessary deeds required to innovate are each elusive and wholly private pleasures that make it all worthwhile.

Second, the level of focus that they are capable of achieving and which allows them to operate in such a fashion as to create all these wonderful things is Absolute. It’s the reason they go without food or sleep or soap. Because when they are in their trance, simply, and very honestly, food and sleep and soap do not exist. Nothing exists but the work. This is what is required of the mind that hones in on a specific task of actual magnitude. It is also a social disability for many a Creative who can’t balance their outward lives. And often it is a medical ill too.

They understand that nobody else gets it (or gets them). Their whole life, their very existence itself, is soaked through with that fact. But you won’t find one Creative who cares a jot about what others think of them while they’re in their trance. That flux, or flow, or whatever you want to call, when you have all your plates spinning at once and only you know all the plots and the twists and the possibilities are endless and yours alone, it’s THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD. It is the opportunity to execute the entirety of one’s faculties all at once. Just like a dog that lives in a cage all of its life and is then let free in an enormous field, the Creative in flux is that dog bounding, its blood raging through it veins with all the life that the universe has ever managed to cram in a single living being. And who would ever give that up for something as meaningless as a sandwich, or a pillow or a bar of soap?

The dream of nearly every Creative is the same. It’s to be fortunate enough to acquire patronage. Whether that patron arms the Creative with pencils and paper, or jet engines and even mediocre tools, or unlimited wood, or unlimited solder, or a boat, or anything – because it doesn’t matter what the medium is. All that matters is the freedom of the field. Then nature takes over. The heart flushes and pumps so hard with the fiercest and most desperate and wanton ecstasy that if it explodes in the chest and kills the doer of the thing, it will leave a corpse with so great a smile on its face then even a short life will have been lived to the fullest.

This desperation, and make no bones about it, it is desperation. It is as agonising as it is pleasurable. That power does not belong to the Creative. They only rent temporary access to it. So when they are not running the fields there are in the cage. Imagine the power to invent the greatest endeavours in all of human history being reversed down on your shoulders, relentlessly crushing you into the ground. Now imagine that the self-destructive escapism inside a bottle is easily accessible. Would you grab a glass? Or would you go back to start over and wipe the chalkboard clean and begin again from nothing having failed more times than even your mentors attempted and somehow find the strength to reach for your focus, only so that you can hope to achieve your goal, all while none of the people around you understand you, and often mock or even undermine your earnestness?This is the life of a Creative. It’s easy to see why they are misunderstood. It’s also easy to see how much more they could achieve if they were supported instead of vilified or marginalised. Imagine if your teenage child who is obsessed with (insert random item here) wasn’t interrupted by complaints of a messy room or yet another hot meal left to go cold or untended chores. These odd folk are sensitive and widely misunderstood, and hindered by anyone and anything that isn’t part of their focus. But for all their apparent „weaknesses” or „faults” they are the hardiest, most diligent, most determined of all of us. We owe them far more respect than they are paid. We are literally indebted to them. They’re simply too busy focusing to be bothered with letting us make ourselves feel better about ourselves by patting them on the back. The best thing we can do for them is give them whatever they need and just get out of their way.

Stephen Fahey

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Prof. dr Mirosław M
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