Monday, January 12, 2015

Creativity, the Internet, and the Lost Art of Being Wrong in the Right Way

Can I be honest here?  I’m horrible at everything. According to the internet, I’m doing absolutely everything wrong. Yesterday I read an article about how I have been cutting fruit incorrectly all my life. My method of cutting an apple in half, then slicing the core out, is not only wasteful, it’s bordering on Neanderthal. I’ve also been drinking from a straw with inefficient technique, and spending too much time on slicing cherry tomatoes one by one.

Life hacks let me know about all sorts of things I’ve been failing at during my lifetime. Helpful internet articles seem to fill a basic human need for their authors: To be right. Sticky sweet self-righteousness.

One of the things I’m trying to work on this year is to be ok with being wrong. Because I am wrong a lot.

When I was a kid, I did everything wrong and it was delightful! I tried to glue ice together once. That didn't work, but it wasn't a failure of learning. I was allowed to be wrong. As an adult, I should know better.

Scrolling through newsfeeds just makes me feel like a huge disappointment to the world. I am once again in my seventh grade classroom where we were discussing the spread of Christianity, hand proudly raised at the question: “Who here isn’t Christian?” I said I was Protestant. I wasn’t even Protestant. I don’t know why I said it. Maybe I wanted to be the only hand raised in the room? Was I just winging it to see what would happen? The teacher sighed and put his head in his hands when I answered, and it is an indelible memory.

Oh the tyranny of finding yourself in a place where you are so afraid of saying the wrong thing you say nothing at all! I am right there when I spend too much time on the internet, on Facebook specifically. I try to make it a more creative conversation by asking thoughtful questions, or creating projects, sharing memories, bits of poetry.

My art suffers for reading online because I silence myself. I question as I create. I wonder if every pose, each turn, each word, even if my own voice is genuine or borrowed. I wonder if the message I am sending is ok to express. Am I the only hand raised in the classroom again? Is this right in its wrongness, or is it just offensive? Worse, is it just bad art?

In improv, I can say or do anything and it becomes an accepted reality. What's wrong suddenly becomes right, and not only right, but everyone on the team plays along and adds to the world. There are rules, sure, but it's a playground of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness. Sometimes it turns into bad art, but it’s fun art because there’s freedom in it.

And I guess that's what I am getting at by writing this. I see too much exclusivity online (and off), too much of a desire to prove that being a introvert is the best way to be, or that you must be constantly moving in order to call yourself a dancer, or if you screw up even once with your possessives in an essay you’re not a real writer. That’s not freedom. It’s restriction. It’s a desire to be right all the time.

It's exhausting. It's a tiresome, uncreative space. It's a place where I feel trapped and unable to spark, like I'm trying to light a match in a swimming pool. It makes me want to shut it all off, get a landline, and start using my typewriter again.

I'm just going to keep making mistakes in 2015 and beyond, and try to quiet the Greek Chorus that is telling me everything I do is horrible. A complete relief. Now pardon me while I go peel an apple with a butter knife.

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