I am writing occasionally in response to Dangerous Meredith‘s Advent Creativity prompts. Her latest is derived from her pamphlet called The Right Questionand poses the following questions which I’ve answered as a poet and trainer (and technical writer) ‘cos they overlap and are unveiling…
“How important are the following to you when you assign values of success or failure to your work?· Your feelings about your work? Is it important for you to feel happy or inspired or confident or stimulated by your work?
Always. Whether training or writing or being creative anyway, I want to be surprised and inspired (although the price can be embarrassing), my aim is to learn something new and pass that to others (and save them any embarrassment I’ve encountered).
Or do you think you should suffer in the name of creating Great Art? If the latter, where did this belief come from? Is it necessary?
No. The idea that one should suffer to make great art : I’ve touched upon in The Creativity Thing. One should pass through suffering, if necessary, to make great art. As an artist : even as a trainer and a technical writer and poet, one must leave behind a transformative (and joyful) legacy. Otherwise, you’ve propagated your suffering to others : one would be better off waging war.
The amount of ‘audience’ take-up, for example number of tickets sold to your show, number of shares for your Instagram posts, number of views on your YouTube channel or downloads of your podcast, number of books sold?
Go away stop bothering me. Okay I check the likes and comments and visitors, etc, but all it does is excite my curiosity. What did they really think? Did it touch them?
My best answer belongs to a bar attendant. I had performed at an open-mic poetry event (the poem was Secrets by the Sea (see if you get it too!)). I was third of the first six poets. At the break, I bought a beer. The bar attendant looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I loved your poem.” That meant all to me.
And the same during training when I help people to solve their problem. And they say: “Andrew, I get it.” Even if it is only Excel data cleansing!
The quality or type of your audience’s response. When I used to perform, one of my personal markers of success was how quiet an audience got when I was on stage.
And mine. As a trainer (whether virtual or face-to-face) or a public speaker, one gets used to the fact that the audience won’t fully pay attention. They mini-fidget or display the subtle body language cues that say I’m uncomfortable or bored or hostile. And as a facilitator, I put that into play : before things escalate (okay nearly always).
I have a birthday card which has a cartoon of a trainer at a PC working his way through a dozen DVDs totally unaware that some of his audience have died and the survivors have gone mad. I look at that card often!
But the open-mic poetry experience is sublime. Yes I’m listening as I speak but they are listening to me. And are receptive to what I’m saying. And they become still and silent. As if they’re catching their breath. They sometimes even forget to finger click (in lieu of applause) until I stop speaking.
The amount of money you make. Professional artists need to make a living and may be under pressure to make sales. Other people who make creative work for recreational, therapeutic, or other personal reasons may not care about this as much (if they put a price on their work at all).
There is no money in poetry (unless you sell to other poets). Nor in short stories. And as I am not a novelist, the training and technical writing isn’t a side hustle. Yet. Unless I become famous. Not yet. So I’m in it for the creativity. But in the day job, the money is important as I have bills to pay and child support (not any more).
Your sense that you learnt something from a project, that you progressed in your skill, craft, or sense of confidence.
The most extreme example is after attending a training course, I was constrained from putting my knowledge into practice. I was furious. And I wasn’t even a trainer yet. Or a refound poet! I’m insufferably curious. And I get paid to learn new things. And pass that on to others. I can’t put a value on that : unless I’m prevented from doing so. And in my real job: as a poet I am always stretching myself : trying new ideas and being stimulated. Progress is all : curiosity is the driver.
If you are collaborating, did you feel a sense of harmony with your co-creators? Or is this less important to you than ending up with a kick-arse outcome (and the two are not mutually exclusive, by the way).
Yes and No. In the main, I work by myself : and it pinches that I have to do everything myself. I can’t and sometimes I need help so I need to collaborate and learn from that. When I have collaborated, with others, I’ve either learnt and been stretched (Melbourne Health, for example) or I’ve had to learn by myself because I’ve been sequestered from the team. But I’ve remained focussed on the outcome: helping people do their job better.
Not so much as a poet. I’ve worked by myself although a workmate sent me a poem to which my response was too serious and I sent the frivolous one instead.
Acclaim from your peers or industry gatekeepers. Are you a lone wolf or do you crave endorsement from your fellow creatives? Do you sweat over getting good reviews?
Bad reviews annoy me. Mainly because there is neither instruction nor encouragement. So while I’m hurt by them, I pass them by, eventually.
Creatively, I’m not interested in acclaim from my peers : if they read it and they’re touched by it, I’m fulfilled. If they read it and remark how clever I am, I’m out as I fear I’ve been too obscure. My concern is : did they get it? Did it make a difference? Same as : What is the problem here? Where’s the tension? (See my walking friend’s words in the The Creativity Thing.) Which equally applies to training and writing as it does to poetry.
The generation of other opportunities. Do you have a ‘eureka’ moment if other people, upon experiencing your work, ask you to work with them or are you content to forge on alone?
No-one to my recollection has asked me to collaborate creatively (the workmate mentioned above had organised a corporate poetry reading).
To quote James P Carse author of Finite and Infinite Games, I’m a peregrinus, perpetually searching for surprise by myself. That has led to other learning opportunities, for example video editing, dabbling with podcasts and starting a charity (admittedly I asked people to work with me in that instance which was a great experience).
Other reasons. Perhaps making creative work is part of your coursework and you aspire to earn a certain grade or number of marks for it.”
No. How it this even possible? Every part of me rebels against this idea : sublimating your creativity for mere marks or grades when creatively you could draw yourself out to a place you’ve never been or aspired to?