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The Truth About Creativity

You’ll notice a comic with a Bukowski quote running along the side of this article. I read it once, long ago, before I knew what a Bukowski was or that he had such a stunning reputation for being an asshole.

In the great Internet tradition of being an asshole to an asshole, I’m going to pick on Bukowski a bit. But only a bit, I promise.

Zen Pencils Bukowski

First off, I fucking hate this quote. It’s a garbage quote. Is it supposed to be informational? Affirmational? Inspirational? It literally doesn’t add anything to the world except for condemnation.

Now that that’s out of my system, let’s break down why this quote represents the current perception of creativity.

In classical history, creative inspiration was often seen as a deity, alighting on a mere mortal for a brief time of performance. The word inspiration broken down means Divine Guidance. When God created Adam in Genesis, the life he gave to him was inspiration. Thus, Adam turned from clay to man.

This was the paradigm that humans labored under when they were creating for thousands of years. Here, we see a mentality that protects our fragile creative minds from bearing the full brunt of the blame during periods of intense writer’s block, and a worldview that protects our egos from becoming too enamored with the glory of our own creative power.

Elizabeth Gilbert gives a fascinating Ted Talk regarding the breakdown of this system and its societal ramifications that dives far deeper into this issue than I do here. In it, she writes of the psychological breathing room that deified creativity imbued within an individual. She says, 

There it is, right there, that distance that I’m talking about. That psychological construct to protect you from the results of your work.
But not anymore. In this world, we have the Bukowski mentality overshadowing our creative pursuits. If you haven’t written in a few weeks, you simply don’t want to badly enough. After undergoing a divorce, changing careers mid-life, and moving to a new place looking for some peace of mind – you choose to do the most relatable activity in America and sit on your couch with a beer. But don’t rest, just yet. YOU SHOULD BE CREATING. After all, isn’t that why you did all of this?

In essence, this mentality says that you have no excuse not to create, period. Not injury, not mental state, not poverty, not crisis; none of those situations should affect you. If you are truly creative, then you will create. End of Story.

So, to the wary creative reading this article, might I remind you that you are not creating. And since you have no excuse not to create? Following this logic to its bitter end says that you must not be as creative as you thought. This subtle discouragement is a powerful tool to stop you from trying again, when you are inspired, when you do have the time.

Nowhere in this mentality is there a time for the creative mind to live in the rawness of reality, and to gain the experience necessary that a truly creative mind would need to draw on. Nowhere in this mentality is there room for anything, except for creating.

A paragon of pursing dreams at literally any cost, James Rhodes writes about how he gave up his life to play classical piano.  When I read his article, I didn’t feel encouraged to pursue my dreams. I felt vilified for reading the article. I also saw a sad man, driven to great lengths to fill a desire for external validation of his creativity. And what’s that, hiding at the end of his article? Ah, I didn’t even notice until now. Bukowski.

Find what you love and let it kill you.

I must be under a different spell. Lost somewhere between creative suicide and creative martyrdom. I want to live a happy, full life. And that takes time. Time spent breathing in the humus of the world at every possible turn. Time spent living is time spent creating. It is the necessary nourishment for that piece of ourselves, deep within, that might delight in a muse if we’re very ,very lucky.

And my creativity may be for others, but not necessarily for their consumption. Even if you never read my words or hear my music or share in my art in any way, you will participate in my creativity. My creativity is what keeps me sane in the face of a depraved and senseless world filled with systemic oppression. My creativity is the mechanism through which I transcend my personal tragedy and move through to another adventure. So, if you ever see me with a smile on my face or share in a joke I’ve told; you are experiencing my creativity, because the person you see that can experience joy can only exist through the necessary outlet of my art.

And I think that when we get bogged down in this mentality that there are no excuses not to create, well, then, we just don’t create.


Photo Credits: Creación de Adán by Michelangelo. For more info about this incredible artist and find Michelangelo exhibitions, check out this Artsy page.


If you like what you read, feel free to share. Basic Rules: Be civil. We are all people and deserve respect. That’s a hard and fast rule, by the way, it is not optional. Other than that, anything goes.

Interested in many things, but nothing captivates more than technology, entrepreneurship, futurism, and humanity's quest to problem-solve.

  • Dylan J

    Wow, Bukowski does seem like an asshole. That comic is way too cute for the quote it illustrates. I like this article a lot! Maybe it’s just because you’re not telling me I’m a shitty person for reading comics on the internet in my spare time. It feels like a long time since I’ve created anything, and your article helped with some of the guilt I’m feeling about that. Still, it also feels stifling to think I’m not in control of my creative time. It sucks when I have the desire to create but not the inspiration.