Don’t be creative
Don’t be creative
The story starts on a cold winter’s evening. I was crossing a square that I have crossed so many times, that I don’t notice anything new in it. I was trying to walk as fast as possible to avoid the cold and to make matters worse it started raining. Then I saw it.
A man was blowing what looked like a plastic pipe and creating music. There was a bowl with a few coins in front of him. His face wore an expression that said that his stomach was as empty as that bowl in front of him. I dug into my pockets, found a few coins and put them in the bowl. I felt sorry for him. He was sitting in the cold, starved and wet. The cold shivering body seemed to resonate through the tunes of the rudimentary flute. I took shelter under the roof of a closed shop and stood there listening to the music and watching the rain dampen the tunes.
There was something remarkable about him. Remarkable does not mean spectacular, but here as Seth Godin would explain it, it means something worth making a remark about. The man on the square was by no means a musician. He probably didn’t even know how to read and write music. But he was playing it. The cold did not matter, the emptiness of the square did not bother him, the coins in the bowl did not have much importance and the empty stomach actually gave his music its character. My brain argued instantly that the man was just trying to make a living by entertaining people. But my heart asked me to look beyond that. It was and is a message to all the artists out there. Don’t be creative, don’t even try to be creative. Even if you are an amateur or a professional at what you are doing, don’t try to be creative. The man was making music from a piece of plastic, and in doing so he was being very creative. But that was not his aim. His aim was to give his best to what he was doing against all odds. He was trying to tell an honest story about his hardships through music. He was telling us to do our honest best and take whatever ended up in the bowl in front of us at the end of the day.
I heard an actor say once that he wakes up, acts in his play and then goes home. He does not know how he did or what others thought of him. He just knows that he did it the way he wanted to do it. No one knows what creative is and one man’s creative is another man’s crap. That’s why its very hard to say when someone is being creative. But its easy to show and to see when someone is being honest. Instead of analyzing what everyone likes and producing it, it is a lot more satisfying to create what you like. Not everyone will like what you are doing in any case. So if you can’t please everybody, at least make sure that you please yourself with the things you do.
What is wrong with us?
Going one step further, here is what is wrong with us. The first thing I felt after seeing the man on the square was sadness. It made me reach for some coins which ended up in his bowl. This was pity, pure and simple. Then after a long time I admired the man for doing something I could not and would not do. He was extracting music from a hollow plastic pipe with holes at random places. I am sure most musicians would struggle to play that as an instrument. They had studied music with its rules and notations, whereas this man had picked up a piece of plastic and made a flute out of it. I am sure many of us would think in the same way, given enough time. This is exactly what is wrong with us. We start with sadness, then move to pity and then if we are lucky enough we progress to admiration. I just think that if someone can do something that we can’t or we have not even thought of, the first feeling that we experience should be awe. It does not matter if someone is stuck in the cold, what matters is if he is fighting to make it better or not.