Realizing our talents and abilities is impacted by so many personal and outer conditions.
In her acceptance speech for receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award (of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), Angelina Jolie commented about circumstances and being able to express oneself:
“I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had to have this path in life, and why, across the world, there’s a woman just like me, the same abilities, the same desires, the same work ethic and love for her family who would most likely make better films than me — better speeches.
“Only she sits in a refugee camp. She has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe and if they’ll ever be allowed to return home. I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers. But I will do as my mother asked and I will do the best I can with this life to be of use.”
Angelina Jolie, in addition to her work as an actor, was named a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador and has visited refugee camps around the world, and donated more than a million dollars to support the UNHCR.
[Quotes from article: “Oscars honors Angelina Jolie, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury” By Glenn Whipp, Los Angeles Times November 17, 2013.]
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“Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
That quote (attributed to both Leonardo da Vinci and Picasso) is most likely about the process of creating a piece of work – but what about abandoning even the attempt to create something: a painting, novel, smart phone app, new business, or anything substantial?
Of course there are conditions – such as extreme poverty, physical and mental ailments, living as a refugee – that affect how much opportunity people have to do work of various kinds, including creative expression.
And what if your talents and intelligence have gained success for you in an area that is not particularly creative, but still, deep down, you have a passion to create?
There are, of course, a number of reasons.
In her book The Gifted Adult, Mary-Elaine Jacobsen, PsyD, for example, writes about an experience in fifth grade when her teacher “shredded” a poem she had written:
“She insisted I had copied it from a book, humiliating me in front of the class by bellowing, ‘No one your age could have written such a thing. Shame on you.’ I learned that expressing myself was a dangerous thing to do. Becoming a person of few words was difficult for an enthusiastic extrovert such as myself.”
She adds, “I didn’t understand that the withering feelings I experienced didn’t come from my own fragility or instability. It was the side-effect of a culture that insists on pigeonholing and limiting the creative spirit and uncommon intelligence.
“Though I was taught that uniqueness and individuality were the American way, this proved to be more myth than reality. So I stayed on the approved track and played my prescribed part quite successfully.
“I put away my watercolors and poems and lived a conventional adult life that by most people’s estimation should have been ‘good enough.’
“For a long time I made believe that I was content, because that was true on many fronts. Yet in my quiet times I was bothered by a profound feeling of emptiness, as though I had lost something vital.”
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Another example is Tama J. Kieves, a “visionary career catalyst” as described on her site, and an acclaimed author and workshop leader.
But she had to overcome the pressures to keep following a path on which her high intelligence gained her many rewards at too great a spiritual cost because she was denying her creative passions.
She had graduated with honors from Harvard Law School, but left her career as “an overworked attorney” to follow her “soul’s haunting desire to become a writer.”
In her latest book she addresses challenges that many people may face in realizing their creative passions. She points out:
“Keep in mind that today’s mainstream culture sprang up from the fringes, those with different ideas, the rabble-rousers on a distant shore. Thomas Watson, the founder of blue-chip IBM, for God’s sake, said, ‘Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker.’ The establishment always has its roots in uncertainty and the unimaginable.
“In every age, alternative, bold souls have doubted themselves, have been criticized, and have struggled to forge an outlet for their brilliance. But it’s only because they gave ‘the world’ more power than their creativity.”
Here is a brief audio clip from a video in which Kieves talks about what may be a common reason people hold back from pursuing their creative interests: negative reactions from ‘the world’ – including family members:
See full video and more quotes from her book in article: Tama Kieves on inspired desire and new directions.
”A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if they are to be ultimately at peace with themself.”
Abraham Maslow [paraphrased]