by Katherine Robertson-Pilling - the second in the series of how to live the creative life.
Express Yourself. And Do It Well.
For my 14th birthday, all I wanted was a guitar. I got one and almost immediately started writing songs. Actually, it was more like taking dictation.
Where Did That Come From?
For the first time in my life, I felt something flowing through me. Words and music poured together through my body onto the page. The force took the flavor of whatever was going on with me at the moment: searching songs when I was searching, angry songs when I was angry.
What ended up on paper and through my guitar was a concentrated form of Katherine. With every song I wrote I came to know myself better, to see outside me what was inside me. They were not particularly good songs. But the process of writing them was my creative awakening. I was not yet mature, but I was fully alive.
The Four Ingredients of Creative Expression:
These days I live several months each year in France. France is a society renowned for its sidewalk cafés. It’s where I learned to drink espresso. Espresso, and its offspring: cappuccino, latte, americano and macchiato, is made by heating water, putting it under pressure and forcing it through a filter container of tightly packed, finely ground coffee beans.
In my experience, creative expression is much the same process. As both words come from the same root, I think espresso makes a good metaphor. I think the ingredients are the same:
The Water. People name it all kinds of things, from Muse to inspiration, but for me that “something” I felt flowing through me at 14 is the force of life itself. Like water it will always flow when given the chance, seeking expression through everything. How do you invite the water to flow through you?
The Pressure. None of us would choose obstacles, but life delivers them anyway. When the world around you doesn’t support your creative vision, how do you respond? How can you use the pressure of your circumstances to express yourself better?
The Container. No filter, no espresso. “The enemy of art is the absence of limitations,” said filmmaking icon Orson Welles. Creativity also needs something to contain it, channel it, focus it. How can your limitations serve you creatively?
The Beans. They’re all about flavor, espresso beans and creative originality. Every kind of coffee bean can be used for espresso; the process—growing, picking, cleaning, drying and roasting—releases the rich perfume we love. It all starts with a ripe, health berry. Every kind of person has original ideas. How are you tending the plant that grows yours?
The Riper the Berry the Subtler the Flavor
From the 14-year-old girl with the guitar, I have observed my creative flavor grow richer through the years, in music and writing. My responses to the world have clarified my voice, and good training has developed my skill. One without the other is like the bean without the filter. The more my writing has matured, the more pleasing and subtle its flavor has become, even to me.
Why do you write?
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” So said master choreographer Martha Graham.
Why do you write? What do you want to say? Are you an artist? A rebel? A hero? A teacher? Do you want to get something out? Create a reaction? Is it enough to you to just be heard? Or do you want to be understood?
Self-expression is a high priority among the creatives of the world. Whatever you want to say, if it’s worth saying it’s worth saying well. Testing your limits finds balance with developing your craft. Your unique creative flavor will mature over your lifetime, and now is the time to begin developing your skill. There is a time for wild abandon and a time for mastering the medium. To express yourself successfully, mastering the medium comes first.