My Creative Impulse

By , Annapolis, MD
What drove Homer to fashion something as gross as the Trojan War into delicate poetry? Why does the imagination of a mime or the grace of a dancer give us such delight? Why have generations of readers been stirred by Sylvia Plath’s dark works of prose and music lovers been brought to tears by Chopin’s first g minor Ballade? What drives the artists of our world, and what about their creative acts captivates us so? As an artist myself, I have mused over these questions all my life, but now realize their answers.

When I am expressing myself creatively, or interpreting the creative expressions of others, I achieve my “higher self.” The fine and performing arts propel me to reconsider my engagement with my surroundings, and the effect is a wellspring of life-affirming force.

I am driven by natural law to find meaning. It was ordained that I be born uncertain of who I am and what I aspire to be. Through the process of growing up, I have the luxury of defining both. Gazing through the viewfinder of my camera, tapping the rusted keys of my father’s typewriter, or performing Rachmaninov in a concert hall filled with two hundred people, I feel alive, self-aware of my soul, grounded in my present. I know my identity and my ambitions. Without these artistic activities, I am merely in a vacuum, blood and bone, itinerant in space, devoid any real sense of purpose.

Perhaps my struggle is best articulated in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” when his young hero writes in his diary: “Welcome, O life! I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race.” I interpret this quote to mean that every creative encounter is a new event. Every “experience” requires another assertion of one’s identity, one’s impulse towards their self-discovery, towards their soul’s awakening. Joyce argues that the collective “conscience” is not something handed down ready-made from Mount Sinai. It is, instead, the product of inspiration and creativity derived from the artist. Every authentic artist is engaged in the creation of this certain communal consciousness. As Giotto created forms from the Renaissance, I have the capacity to tap into and forge my own interpretation of the mundane world. To me, living deliberately means expressing myself in this way and embarking on my existential journey to self-identity and self-fulfillment.

The “awakened” individuals I have encountered in my lifetime embody this mentality. They are enlightened, as I am enlightened and Giotto was enlightened, because they know self-expression through the arts is their most powerful tool, if their vision is focused and true. They are their “higher selves” and I am my “higher self” when we look to humanity’s artistic achievements that measure up to sky scrapers and know it is in our power to reach those heights, and maybe most importantly, that civilization stagnates without the creative impulse.





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