As I drift aimlessly amid stiff smiles, performing thoughtless recitations that have become so routine, I reframe the life that plays before me. Schoolwork appears humorous, pens seem to click in a synchronized fashion. My motions begin to align with an internal monologue; the hum of the Metro tracks will urge me to dance. The need to create surprises me, an odd energy that could as easily birth from the most disgusting depths of egocentrism as much as a muse who drips purity from her costume of silvery silks, calling upon me to indulge in divine imagination. The difficult truth is I’d rather not find out.
Dedication to originality and ingenuity has often appeared to me in the form of the tortured artist, or the prestigious, unreachable figures that have defined the professional art world. The unruly, scarf-wearing, baguette bearing writer has unapologetically taken place as the man truly devoted to his craft; one too preoccupied with interpreting the inner-workings of the universe to concern himself with the uninspired plebeian. I’ve come to realize this perception of the world of art which is detached from every other field has really only ostracized people that have been led to conclude at an early age that they aren’t creative thinkers. True forms of analysis and innovation can in fact present themselves in all fields, and even the eternally interpretive artist doesn’t have to prove his work by pursuing that life professionally.
It has become increasingly clear to me, as I navigate the troubled waters that are pop culture, that the bewitching narrative of originality in itself isn’t an original desire at all. I too have found myself seduced by the spotlight of eccentricity; sent into a fury of writing and an exhausting dedication to dance that will never prove fulfilling. I’ll let myself be lured to the very edge of the limelight—only to discover a beautifully successful, indescribably skilled human who has manufactured bliss by way of their sub-celestial brain—beaming into the audience.
Such comparisons, aided by the destructive supremacy that social media bears down on naturally inspired teenage minds, break down the organic nature in which art and creativity flourish by origin. In fact, the very prompt for this article was, “how to stand out in DC,” with the uneasy proposal of, “tips.” How would one even go about providing “tips” for creativity? A concept so quick, so easy as tips surely cannot capture the mesmerizing entirety of a skill that continues to drive artists of all kinds to insanity? My truth remains that the path to realizing one’s true, raw creativity is a deeply intimate process that grows from an imperfect balance of societal, cultural, and individual experiences—which is not to say mentorship cannot inspire further greatness, but no amount of museum visits or G minor scales alone is enough to evolve into something true. Capitalist promises of gratification and success shine on a high shelf; for many an unattainable gold trophy that merely stirs up competitive principles. Competition, in the end, only tangles us up in spirals of envy and incompetence instead of fostering an environment supportive of discovery. When education becomes driven by such devilish competition, demands become for literacy rates instead of well-adjusted people interested in their educational careers. Sound familiar?
This of course is all easy to type up in an article for your high school newspaper that drooping eyes will skim at most. Admittedly, I have no direct plan for stirring up a renaissance among our discouraged generation, and don’t wish such a responsibility solely on the teachers that chose to take on such an ambiguous profession. I can only encourage the practices of self-reflection: taking the time to identify the natural creativity that resides within. Only through the abandonment of the habits of comparison, a reevaluation of the meaning of originality, and a curiosity which is open to the many graces of learning and analysis, will creativity find an environment deserving of its merits.