I asked a friend from work whether she thought of herself as an artist, and her response surprised me. She said no. Maybe she would call herself efficient, smart, or interesting, but not creative. I have to confess, that answer caught me off guard.
I like to think of myself as open-minded; I want to be open to new ideas and perspectives; I want to understand a different point of view—empathy. But somehow I convinced myself that everyone is an artist in his own way—that everyone thinks of himself as an artist.
Part of being “open-minded,” I told myself, is accepting that everyone is a type of artist. That seems like a complex thought, but it’s really a simple thought disguised as a complex one. “Everyone” is an artist? That assertion sounds too much like an absolute. And if I’ve learned anything about absolutes, it’s that they usually don’t exist.
But wait—if I define “art” by my own terms, I can claim that everyone is an artist in some strange or wonderful way. I can make my assertion true if I make up the rules. The real question is do other people see themselves as artists? I’ve been acting—unintentionally—as though other people are playing by my definition of art.
The friend I mentioned used her own definition and told she was not an artist. Someone may have deep character or colorful experiences, she said, and still not be an artist. She pushed it even further: someone may even have an artistic experience and not be an artist.
In her mind, to be an artist you have to create. So if that one element is missing then you don’t qualify as an artist. I have a different definition and I think everyone is capable of creation. We disagree, and that’s ok.
The point is, she defined “artist” and then decided that she didn’t fit the category. That makes me think that she knows herself—maybe better than I know myself. Don’t mistake, I still call myself an artist but I also called myself open-minded—something I can get better at.
I’ve thinking of myself as an artist for a long time—maybe I started to impose my view on others. I’ve been surrounded by artists for years—maybe I started expecting people to respond in a certain way. And I’ve heard plenty of immature folks call themselves creative. It’s pretty mature to admit that you aren’t creative.