Creativity and Authenticity

I received feedback regarding my creativity that I’ve been mulling over.

“Your poems, like the two of your collages I’ve seen, are constructed of things you think to be already artistic. With the collages, the images may sometimes become greater than the sum of their parts, but you act to prevent that by sticking in something preciously verbal, and this bit of intellectualism turns the rest of the piece into not much more than a nice place for a nice “saying.” But a nice frame for someone else’s saying does not leave much, if any, room for expression of self. True, you spend time on these, and that may be a small release (or a big postponement or distraction); but that’s not at all the same as the expansion of self through (or into) art.”

In further communication with my assessor, I contemplated the additional feedback:

  • that I’m motivated, but that I’m searching outside of myself to express myself;
  • that I want my works to mark me as an artist or a poet and that I’m seeking this through my pieces rather than in them;
  • that by using poetic components in my poems, and assembling collages from bits of other works, I am using them as a foil;
  • that these same works, if created by someone absolutely invested in them (for their own sake) would mark the person as artist or poet by nature and not imitation.

So in essence, according to the critiquer, I have been playing at being an artist and writer (particularly poet). Because the assessment was given in a gentle manner and I sensed good intent, and because some of the ideas had merit, I entertained them. It has been a weekend of questioning: Am I being authentic in what I create? What do I owe myself when I create? What do I owe the world? When I make art or write, are my actions powered by something fundamental to me, or are these acts only bids for reassurance, approval, status, or validity? What responsibility does one accept when donning the mantle of “artist” or “writer”?

For a couple of days I felt self-conscious about posting. My blog is full of quotes by other people, and I consider it a scrapbook of things that interest me and which I share with others; the critiquer suggested that I am “running the errands of greatness” rather than expressing my own. I replied to the second critique and this morning received a response. I read it and realized something: Good intentions do not imbue validity to what is being said. I’d posted a poem on the forum for critique. What I received besides a critique of the poem was a critique of my motives for creating, and the judgment that I am trying to prove myself. I was admonished to do “groundwork” first, that before I take up a brush or pen I should be able to express myself by simply being. Words that sound wise, but they are offered by someone who truly does not know me.

One thing about my blog is that it’s pretty easy for readers to see my vulnerable spots, and these vulnerabilities can be keyed into and used by readers in their comments. I’m a sincere person and consider the input of other people. It was a good experience in sifting and discerning what’s worth attending to.

As for answering the questions I posed to myself, I create because it gives me pleasure, and because it is a natural act for me. I call myself an artist and a poet because I am, and because no one owns the right to decide who is or isn’t. Creativity is play, it is expression, it is self-education. What matters is that these activities bring me joy. This is enough for me.

Explore posts in the same categories: Arts, Humanities, Journal, Quotes

7 Comments on “Creativity and Authenticity”

  1. Marilyn Says:

    Hear! Hear! Wow, this is heavy stuff, Kathryn, and I really enjoyed reading your thoughts about it. The reason I’ve never taken a writing class is because I abhor the thought of critiquing others’ work and having mine crititiqued. Maybe I just don’t innately understand the value of that process…but it FEELS to me as if it would be damn near impossible to engage in it and not feel judged. I don’t care if how I write is ‘wrong’ to someone else…I do it in a way that feels RIGHT to me. I completely support your creative expression in whatever way feels right to YOU.

  2. Shirl Says:

    bingo! glad you got THAT worked out, Kathryn *smile*

  3. donna Says:

    Heh. And what does it say about someone who gets their jollies by critiquing the art work of others, hmm? Can’t get much more derivative than that, can we?

    If you ask for a critique, and trust the person giving it to you, that is one thing. But unsolicited or unwanted critique is just so much noise.

    This has certainly been a problem for me in some workshops where critique is included as part of the process. Sometimes it is helpful, usually, it gets annoying. I especially hate being asked to critique others’ work, since I am usually at a loss to say much other than that I “got it” or I didn’t get it.

    Expressive art is a personal experience created for the artist by the artist. Different story if you’re a commercial artist, then you have a client or potential client – but whatever you’re doing for yourself for your own enjoyment is your business.

  4. Jennifer Says:

    Can I just say that when I read the critique it didn’t read to me as an “assessment…given in a gentle manner” although I am glad that you perceived it that way. I read it and thought “ouch!” It seemed harsh to me, but then again, I don’t know the context in which it was presented. In any case, I am glad that you considered it food for thought and came to your own conclusions. I hope that you won’t ever let others’ assessemnts/judgments/critiques stop you from creating.

    I find you and your blog quite inspiring and I am always looking forward to each entry with anticipation. While you cover so many topics and sometimes express sadness/confusion, for the most part I always feel like you live life with a kind of wonderful joy. And much of that comes out as your creativity – poems, collages, drawings, the things you read and the things you choose to share with all of us. Thanks for sharing your creative soul!

  5. Diana Says:

    I’m going to keep this post up and come back to it several times today because there is just so much to absorb and think about here, but one thing I have to say is that you are far braver than I am; I wouldn’t even open myself up to critique or assessment. That really took guts.

  6. Imelda/Greenishlady Says:

    Bravo on reaching the conclusion I wanted to suggest. I love your work, and “found art” is a valid medium at any rate, I’m pretty sure. I haven’t read the other comments yet, and feel sure they probably echo this, but you just keep working at what brings you joy – and brings your readers and audience joy. Thank you.

  7. la peregrina Says:

    As Imelda said, “you just keep working at what brings you joy – and brings your readers and audience joy.” I was taught that there is no right way to do art. Art is subjective for both the artist and the viewer. In other words, what the critiquers of the world have decided is authentic art (to paraphrase Lily Tomlin) is nothing but a collective hunch.