Answering the Bell

Image by by Yellow.Cat (Creative Commons)

Image by by Yellow.Cat (Creative Commons)

In reading dozens of biographies of artists, writers, musicians, and more, and experiencing this myself, it’s obvious that all creative people face a defining moment in their lives.

A sounding bell marks that moment. And we can either answer it, or ignore it.

If we answer the call, we can begin our lives as real artists, by using our creativity and embracing our own weirdness.

If we ignore the call, we have no choice but to conform, be complacent and agreeable, silence our inner voices, quell our wild energy with the help of drugs or therapy, and live a normal, compliant life.

This moment, this turning point, marks a bittersweet feeling in the hearts of those who experience it. It’s bittersweet, because we can either finally understand who we are, or we can reject the face we see in the mirror. We can either detach ourselves from the opinions and expectations of others and live with empowerment and self-governance, or we can grip ever more tightly to the chains of conformity, hoping that one day the world will like us, accept us, and see us as “normal.”

Tough decision. I know.

It’s tough because nobody wants to be seen as weird, abnormal, crazy. It’s tough because nobody wants to live a lonely life in pursuit of their passion. It’s tough because it takes courage and a strong ego to make the right choice. And you know deep inside what the right choice is; I don’t have to tell you.

But to make your choice a little easier, consider the following paradox.

When we finally cut the crap and embrace our true identity, and follow our real inclinations, we actually appear more normal to the outside world. We’re not bottling up our creative energy; we’re pouring it into our work. We’re not self-creating dramas in our lives to make the daily grind more interesting; we’re using that energy and creativity in our work. We’re not drowning our problems in drink; we’re exercising those demons through art. We’re not worried about what other people think of us anymore, so we become less neurotic and approval seeking.

As a result, we often appear more normal in our personal lives than we would if we’d failed to answer the bell. Our work, though, is where shit gets a little kooky. Our work, our stories, our drawings, our photography, is where our deep, dark imagination gets channelled—not our lives. And that’s how it should be!

By answering the bell, the sputtering, fizzling Pop Can that is our souls can finally breathe. But by ignoring the bell, it’s as if we’re keeping the Can closed, and shaking it ever more furiously, until one day its suppressed contents finally explode.

You see, creative people can never “turn off” their imagination. Their creative energy will always burn like a raging fire. But we have the choice to let this fire intensify our “work,” or let it agitate our “personal lives.” We have the choice between using this fire in a healthy, courageous way to make art, and using it in a cowardly way by shrinking from the world.

The choice is yours.

What’ll it be?




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