When you’re young and full of awe and wonderment, one of your best friends in life is “creativity”. You hang out together, you go on adventures together, you spend all of your time trying to find new and fun ways to interact with creativity. Then, as you get older, your new friend “responsibility” comes along and tells you that maybe that “creativity” fellow should move out, because the apartment is small and there isn’t enough room for the two of them. That “creativity” fellow is no good for you and is holding you back. In fact, “responsibility” is pretty sure that “creativity” fellow is stealing money from your wallet and drinking milk straight from the carton. Perhaps you should just get a job, make some money, and kick that “creativity” chap straight in the nut sack and tell it to get the hell out. “Responsibility” assures that even though he/she is not nearly as fun as “creativity”, he/she is someone you can rely on and will always have your back.
It’s funny that as a young child lots of creativity is heralded as this amazing thing that should be encouraged. Yet as you get older, somehow too much creativity turns into this monster, and if you’re too creative you’re either labelled rich and eccentric, or poor and immature.
Now, some people move past creativity and enjoy life to the fullest without diving too deep into their creative minds. Some people find a way to balance the two, and even if doing the responsible thing takes precedent most of the time, they still manage to use enough creativity in life to get their fix. There are even a few rare people out there actually manage to make a career out of using their creativity and are living the dream. And some people do the responsible thing, yet are still fighting desperately to involve creativity into their lives every day so they can still feel alive inside, which is where I fall into.
I currently freelance write for the Province (which pays little) and I work in IT (which pays decently, which in Vancouver means barely enough, which everywhere else means I would have owned a house by now). The IT job is where I make my money. I enjoy working with the people there (except one person, you know who you are) and I don’t hate the job at all. It can be a repetitive job, and there can be some less than enjoyable red tape battles, but most office jobs will end up like that. I am lucky that I get paid well in a field I didn’t study (I got a history degree and ended up in IT) and that I can wear whatever I want to work (the biggest perk of IT is nobody really cares what IT wears). The only problem I have at this job is that I am dead inside 95% of the time.
Now, I am sure many people have that same feeling about jobs they get, I know I am not a unique snowflake in any sense of the word. There is a reason the movie Office Space is so popular, it’s because so many people can relate to it.
Every day I drag myself to my office, I feel like a good little monkey, going to his job, being a nice cog in the machine, and doing my work. Am I a good worker? Sure, I feel that I am. I work hard and get my stuff done on time, which is the level many good employees rise to. Simply being a hard worker is good enough to keep you in high standing in many office jobs. Lazy and don’t get your work done? Those are the people who get fired (eventually, usually less if it’s a union) and make you look good.
But I never truly feel I am using any of my natural or learned skills in my IT job. As I said, I work hard, and I try and solve problems to the best of my ability, but it’s not often I think to myself “thank god I was here today, not many people would have solved THAT problem. Sure glad I got them to turn it off and on again.” Again, I rise to the level of a hard worker, which makes me competent at an office job level, but it never feels like I am using any part of myself in any sort of useful way.
Which is where creativity comes in. A complaint often tossed my way by people in my life is that I have two modes, dead inside, or all out binge mode. Basically, when my interest piques and my creativity kicks in, I turn into a crack addict looking for one more hit. I go all out, put myself fully into a project, and burn myself into the ground if it takes that. When I am doing things that don’t challenge my creativity muscles at all, I go into coma mode and just walk through the paces and generally look very unimpressed with life.
This entire ying yang of my life has now reached a critical level, because now I have a lot more exposure to the creative side of my life with my writing job. In the old days, I would do my boring job, go to school, and do the usual things in life you’re told. Work hard, earn money, be responsible. There is a lot of merit to that approach because as I said earlier, you have to balance creativity and responsibility and know when the time is right to possibly pursue creative ventures more than sticking to straight up responsibility. The problem I have now is that the creative pull is so much more now that I get to write and have an audience and a strong medium to do it on. Of course responsibility is always leering at me from around the corner.
In a perfect world? I would quit my IT job and run after that writing job. I truly feel alive when I write and I am actually proud of my work. Are there hardships involved in writing? Of course there is.
One, you often get a lot more negative feedback than positive feedback, because the internet is gonna internet, and it’s full of assholes who really need you to understand they don’t like what you do. People are quicker to insult than to come online and compliment you for something, it’s just how the world works. As a result, sometimes you can be very disenchanted at the idea of using your creativity because you think to yourself “what’s the point, my stuff is average at best.” Some people are very sure of themselves and think whatever they do is amazing, and that you’re god damn lucky you even got to witness it. I am not such a person, and I to this day still feel grateful when one person chooses to read something I write. The problem with lack of confidence is that those negative opinions can sometimes really get to you, so you have to remain strong in the face of them, as hard as that may be.
Two, writing or creativity can be very hit or miss. Sometimes I will come up with a concept I want to try, and I will just go for it, just to see if I can, to try and challenge myself to see if I can make it into a successful piece. In writing, you can come up with what you think is an amazing angle or idea, work on it for days, weeks, or months, and then you finally release it to the public and you sit back and wait for the reaction. The worst is when something you’ve poured your heart and soul into gets a tepid reaction, yet that Mason Raymond article about a tweet he made gets a thousand more views. That is the give and take in creativity in that sometimes mass appeal (Jay Leno style) will be the road to success, so you have to decide (yay more decisions!) how true to your art form you want to stay, if you’re attempting to leverage that into some sort of paying job.
Don’t kid yourself, some people can be creative just for themselves, but a large percentage of creative people want, nay, need to show their creativity to the world to see what reactions it garners. Most creative people tend to be attention whores at some level (I include myself into this) even if they don’t actively seek the limelight. Regardless, I tend to try and balance the two roads, being both generally accessible, while at the same time doing some pieces just for myself. If even a small group of people enjoy my work on a certain piece, that is enough for me, but just as long as ONE person enjoyed it.
And that right there is the best part of writing for me. Not only does the creative process make me feel alive and make me feel fulfilled, the fact that I can make one person laugh, one person think, one person take something away from something I’ve done, that makes my day. I could fix a million computers and it would mean nothing to someone telling me that an article I wrote made them laugh and laugh.
Case in point, I did a little video project called the Canucks Royal Rumble.
It basically took a video game and simulated what it would look like if the Canucks were wrestlers. It ended up being an hour and seventeen minutes. Yes, it was over an hour. In an age where a five minute video induces eye rolling and stifled yawns, somehow this video was watched by over 6,000 people. Yes, some of them might not have watched the whole thing, but many people responded with “I wasn’t going to watch it all, but I couldn’t stop watching it.” People said it was funny and how much they enjoyed it. I poured everything I had into this video (which is comedic based, which is an even tougher medium) and to see people react to it so positively, blew me away. It’s an absurd project, yet I love it to death, and other people enjoyed it too, which is something I will always be proud of.
And so that’s where I stand right now, a freelancer writing about sports in a world in which the writing industry seemingly has no idea how to prosper. Throw caution to the wind and dive head first into a possible shaky career path I love, or do the responsible thing and stick with the safe job that pays well? That is the question many people struggle with, doing what you love versus doing what you have to do. For every success story I read about a band or an artist plugging away their entire life to finally make a career out of their chosen medium, there are a thousand stories about people throwing their financial security away to chase a dream that never appears. Yet both scenarios involve putting in a ton of hard work, which is why I continue to burn my candle at both ends in possible pursuit of creative based happiness. Working from 9-5 then going home, watching hockey, then writing 11-4 is what often times happens for me.
All I know is that creativity is what makes me feel like me. I feel like Wyatt when I am writing, when I am creating a video, when I am utilizing my talents. When I go to work, I am just another part of the machine.
I have no idea what I am going to do (I will probably continue trying to do both jobs until I burn myself out), but “creativity” is telling me life just isn’t the same without it and how much more fulfilling life could be with it all the time. It’s just that god damn responsibility still has a key to my apartment and won’t let me forget about it.