It is fortunate that with most of us reading and writing, listening and singing, and other complementary activities go together. Becoming familiar with the creativity of others feeds one’s own creativity in a variety of ways. It gives us something to work against, if we are inclined to critique the creativity of others through engaging in our own. It gives us some sort of indication of the structures and forms of art that attract a great deal of popularity and frequently a sense of structure. It also provides us, and this is the point of today’s personal essay, the opportunity to gain empathy not only into the artist as a fellow artist, but also with the people that the author writes about.
This is surprisingly important. It is most obvious as a creative person to think of what one needs to express in order to preserve one’s own sense of internal equilibrium. What we view as honest and candid self-expression can be viewed by others in a different light. As creators this is hard for us to understand, but when we view the creations of others, this is an insight we can understand. If one is someone who has had other things written about oneself, and is aware of just how biased and inaccurate these portrayals are, there is at least the possibility that one can recognize that the way one sees it is similarly not going to be how others view things. Even someone like Sam Hunt may be convinced of such a thing in such a circumstance.
It is frequently easy for me to be empathetic to the writer, as one might expect, when I come across very personal creations. Both Lorde’s sophomore album Melodrama and Olivia Rodrigo’s debut album Sour have a perspective that is strongly based in teenage (female) melodrama with the various moods, including melancholy self-reflection, about the ways that being an artist complicates one’s relationships with others. This is certainly a mood I can recognize. If it is perhaps less than ideal that the mode of teenage melodrama resonates strongly with me at my more advanced age, it does at least provide the chance for empathizing with other people who happen to be fellow creative individuals who turn that melodrama into worthwhile art, which is something I hope has been the case for me as well.
It is perhaps more worthwhile to gain a sense of empathy for others. The blind celebration of creativity does not do justice to the harm that unthinking creativity can do for other people. People think that their creativity is hindered by an orderly life, and there is little that does no harm for relationships and the lives of children than the sort of disorder that comes with people seeking to consider themselves as artists. We would be greatly helped in our understanding of how to create wisely if we looked less at our own deceived hearts and the bad examples that are so much around us and looked more at how it is that God is able to combine both intense creativity along with a high degree of decency and order. Perhaps it would make it easier to celebrate creativity among people if we were able to do it at least in the manner of our creator, by imitating His example.