Dear reader, this beloved and benighted collection of lunacy we call Western society, for all its impressive accomplishments such as jazz music and spray-on hair, seems suspicious, or even worse dismissive, of people who, once established in one field, wish to pursue other avenues of creativity.
[Digression alert:] I continue in my endeavour to create the most discursive sentence possible, however I am in no way a threat to the current record holder, Mr. Jonathon Coe, whose book “The Rotter’s Club” ends with a extraordinary 33 page long, 13,995-word sentence. I can only stand in awe sir. [End of Digression Alert]
When otherwise rational humans hear about a model who wants to record an album, or an actor who writes a book, they snicker derisively, as if such a thing were absurd, like the idea of a dog becoming a doctor, or a semi-competent businessman with no political experience becoming president. Madness to be sure.
It’s as if there is a belief that humans should only fit into one box and and then never grow out of it, particularly in the celebrity world.
This was particularly true in my salad days, when I was young and the world was green and squeaky as an iceberg lettuce. The idea that a singer might appear in a film seemed bizarre, even laughable. The fact that these creative experiments were often quite successful didn’t seem to faze those who believed that once someone chose a field – modelling, acting, etc., they stayed there and never deigned to torment us with their odd creative undertakings.
It’s a perplexing reaction if you think about it. Being a creative person is all about experimentation. While some may stay within the confines of a particular discipline, others may succeed in their chosen field and later discover they have tremendous talent in other, entirely unrelated fields. For example, the late Leonard Nimoy of Star Trek (Mr. Spock in real life) was best known as an actor, but was also an extremely prolific and skilled artistic photographer. Madonna is not only a chart-topping singer and occasional actress, but is also a successful writer, having penned six children’s books so far.
The negative reaction to people (particularly celebrities) moving into different fields of creative endeavour is all the more puzzling when you factor in the historical element. Not that long ago that being a celebrity meant you had to be able to sing, dance, act AND be funny, and in many cases, do it on live television 5-6 days a week. Just ask Betty White or Frank Sinatra.
As I said, this issue was most noticeable to me when I was younger, when it was entirely common to hear, “A model wants to put out an album? God help us all,” ad nauseam. These days it’s not nearly so prevalent, thanks to such polymathic luminaries of the Glitterati as the aforementioned Madonna, Hugh Jackman, Zooey Deschanel and Neil Patrick Harris.
Creativity often spills over from one discipline to another, often resulting in wonderfully strange new conglomerations (Amanda F. Palmer’s incredible Theatre is Evil album, art book/show and tour springs to mind).
My dear reader, if a human has within them the ability to add to the sum total of the universe in multiple areas, then we should encourage and applaud their explorations and endeavours.
Whether it’s a famous actor considering a singing career or a kid who wants to try painting because it looks interesting, these explorations benefit us all, whether they’re “successful” or not.
In our modern society, we yak a great deal about courage. Standing up to oppressors, fighting for fundamental rights and so on. What we don’t usually hear about is creative courage – the courage to fully explore the limits of our own abilities and interests. The courage to truly express our inner selves in all it’s beauty, ugliness and raw splendour.
The courage to simply BE.
To those who scoff reading such words, I submit that you’re probably reacting from a surface emotion, the veneer of practicality and scorn we’ve adopted toward the supposedly “frivolous” creative arts. If you search deep within yourself (sorry there’s no app for that), I believe you will that find there is, on some level, a truth to what I’m saying. That veneer is also responsible for the distrust people seem to have toward those who wish to explore every avenue available to them.
Now some of you may be thinking, “Are you suggesting that the courage to express oneself creatively is more important that the courage needed to resist oppression or fear?”
No I’m not, partially because I believe it’s equally important – history has shown that the first targets of any oppressor are the creatives and the intellectuals – but mostly because it’s NOT A DAMNED CONTEST.
Ladies, gentlemen and assorted carbon-based lifeforms reading these words: If you have any creative leanings at all (and trust me you do, no matter how deeply hidden they might be), then I urge you, nay I IMPLORE YOU, to explore them to their fullest extent. It doesn’t have to be a career, or even a side job. Plumbing the depths of your gifts and talents – especially the ones you aren’t yet aware of – will add a level of accomplishment, fulfillment and joy to your life that can’t possibly rendered into words.
When you do so, you inspire others to do the same, and the resulting chain reaction has the potential to change the entire world. In the end, every creative expression – yes, even the collection of literary effluvia you’re reading right now – adds to the sum total of the universe, another stitch in the tapestry of the human experience.
Hmm… What began as a discussion about celebrities who try other things has evolved (mutated?) into a commentary on creativity in general. It’s an interesting development considering that just thirty short minutes ago I had no idea what I was going to write about.
The muse does indeed works in mysterious ways.