Why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?
Given that everyone is creative to some degree, what leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?
Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.
One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”
Creating can be more or less dispassionate, guided by engineering, product development or social needs, for example – but much of what we value in the arts comes from a place in the soul as well as mind.
An article points out about Nyong’o: “Acting is hardly a common career in Kenya for the child of a powerful politician, but her father, one-time health minister Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, said the family had always supported her dreams.
“She started acting very young, right from kindergarten, and even at home with just the family, she would come up with make-believe stories and perform them for us. She was always imaginative and creative.”
The article notes she “was inspired to follow an acting career after working as a production assistant on the 2005 drama ‘The Constant Gardener.’ Actor Ralph Fiennes then told her only to get into acting if she couldn’t live without it.
“It’s not what I wanted to hear, but it’s what I needed to hear,” she said.
From Lupita Nyong’o: Kenyan star who stunned Hollywood, The Herald-Zimbabwe March 3, 2014. [Photo with her father.]
That idea of pursuing acting – or another art, of course – only if you “can’t live without it” or be happy unless you do it, is something many of the actors and other artists I have quoted over the years say fits for them and their own “calling.”
Lupita Nyong’o is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, and reportedly fluent in her native Luo, Spanish, Swahili and English. [Wikipedia]
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Another acclaimed actor is Jared Leto, who has commented:
“I was raised around a lot of artists, musicians, photographers, painters and people that were in theater. Just having the art-communal hippie experience as a child, there wasn’t a clear line that was drawn.
“We celebrated creative experience and creative expression. We didn’t try and curtail it and stunt any of that kind of growth.”
“I never look at myself as a closet actor wanting to make music or a closet musician wanting to act — I’m very proud to do both and I don’t put one above the other…” [imdb.com]
[Photo from Jared Leto Facebook page – including his moving Oscar speech.]
Read about more multitalented creators like Jessica Lange, Gordon Parks, Julia Cameron, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jane Seymour, Natalie Portman, James Franco, Mayim Bialik, Jeff Bridges, Viggo Mortensen, David Lynch and others in article: Multitalented Creative People. [An excerpt from my main book.]
Many high ability people have needs to be actively creative.
In her article “The Special Challenges of Highly Intelligent and Talented Women Who Are Moms,” Belinda Seiger, PhD, LCSW, writes that in her private psychotherapy practice and her personal life, she has “known many gifted women who seem to possess what I refer to as the ‘rage to achieve.’
“They are constantly driven to learn, to create and to be intellectually productive even while raising young children. Many of these women face periods of frustration when the demands of family and their need for intellectual immersion collides.”
But, Seiger adds, being a mother and actively engaged in other work is not easy: “As one friend who was getting her second master’s degree put it: ‘mass chaos’ ensues when one attempts to become immersed intellectually while simultaneously remaining attentive and available for family responsibilities…”
She notes that “Like gifted children and young adults; gifted adults are distinguishable not only by their IQ’s but by their intensity, multiple talents, high energy, curiosity and obsessive need to increase in-depth knowledge in subjects that interest them. Trying to ignore these qualities can result in a depressed mood, anxiety and feelings of being unfulfilled emotionally and intellectually.”
From my article Motherhood and creative work.
Were you encouraged to be creative as a child? Do you encourage your own children?