Creative Mondays #030 – Creative work is hard work
I was talking to a friend via text message the other night when an interesting exchange occurred. She has an incredibly hard job working with kids as a counselor and currently she is in school to get another degree. She was lamenting to me how she had over 700 pages to read in a book for an upcoming assignment. I asked if there was something I could do to help, I don’t know what I could have done, but I’m always willing to help a friend who has a lot of work to do. She said no and then said the main reason why not, besides the fact that she had to do all the reading herself, was that because she didn’t think I could be serious. I told her I could totally be serious and that The Jim Henson Company wouldn’t have sent me to Australia if I couldn’t be serious when it was time to be serious. The she said, “Your work is different than mine. A different kind of serious.”
This is something that creative people hear all the time. All the time. Creative work comes off as ‘fun’ to other people but that’s because, usually, they only see the art when it reaches the ‘fun’ stage. The movie screening. The gallery opening. The play premiere. The statue unveiling. The concert. They don’t see the hours, days, months, years, of work that came before. The work. (Although, I will say that the ‘fun’ examples listed above are all work as well, sometimes just as hard as the work that came before.)
Creative work is work. And, it is serious work. Ask anyone who has stared at a blank piece of paper, or empty word processing document, an empty canvas. Yes, you are using different muscles to do creative work than, say, a construction worker does, but it’s still hard work. (Again, I’ll add that caveat that a dancer does just as hard physical labor than a construction worker.)
In the Puppet Up! Uncensored show, we have several recreations of classic Jim Henson puppet pieces. I have been fortunate enough to have been asked to participate in both of the pieces: Java and I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face. These are put in the show as a tribute to the legacy of Jim Henson, but also to show the the folks who come to the show how they are performed. Learning these pieces was not easy and, in some cases, were harder work for me than learning, say, the opening and closing choreography. The reason being is that we are recreating pieces that the audience is familiar with and, in some cases, VERY familiar with, so recreating them accurately is extremely important. It took a lot of concentration and, step by step, practice for me to even begin to get these pieces close to performance level. This was hard work. And let me tell you, even though I’ve performed each piece a bunch of times in front of paying audiences, they continue to be hard work. Though, I will say, now that I’ve done them so often, I’ve started to actually have fun while doing them. That doesn’t mean I do my own thing, but it means I’m no longer completely stressed out that I’m not doing them correctly. They are some of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And lets not even get started talking about using the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio. That’s a whole other can of ‘hard work.’
Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who see me playing with puppets, or you drawing on paper or painting on canvas or practicing a dance or playing an instrument and they are going think, “That’s not real work. My work takes a different kind of serious.” There’s nothing that can be done about that. You’ll just have to take comfort in the fact that other artists know how hard creative work is. They get it. Don’t let the other folks who don’t get you down. Leave them to their hard work and stick with yours.
Do people often say your creative work isn’t serious work? If so, how do you go about explaining to them that they are wrong? Or do you just let it slide? Let me know in the comments below!
Usually it’s family. Even as I turn 50, they try to divert me to a “real” job where my mind and talents can be used more fully, or that the financial gain would be more. Maintiaining forward momentum in a creative career, delivering ideas, art or performances that DO earn you money – those are fully demanding pursuits and deadly serious!