Horses aren’t very good at walking backwards or pushing things along with their noses, which might be due, in part, to their long faces.
When used to help transport goods or people, horses are traditionally positioned in front of a cart or coach and then attached via a set of leather straps to the trailer.
A coachman, set upon the trailer, is able to direct the horses using a complicated language specifically developed to him sound like part of the English aristocracy, ensuring the cart is pulled steadily and strongly along it’s journey. Ergo, to ensure the success of this venture, it is vital that the horse is placed in front of the cart, rather than behind.
Why am I explaining such glaringly obvious statements of fact around the arrangements and forces involved in joining a horse and cart in union to develop forward motion? Because for many years, I’ve been creatively putting the cart in front, on top or to the side of the horse, then wondering why the fucker (my creativity) won’t canter in the right direction.
Creativity is not a feeling, it isn’t found in a laptop nor is it located sauntering around YouTube videos of David Bowie. Creativity is expressed through work.
The artist paints a picture and creativity flourishes. A musician plays, plays and plays again, until eventually, they find the song they desire. Nobody ever wrote a best seller the first time they picked up a pen. Flashes of divine inspiration which manifest in works of pure genius are the result of those very genii having worked for many years, prior to the moment of ‘Eureka!’. No-one was ever creative until they started working.
Conversely, I have spent most of my life procrastinating and avoiding the creative work that I yearn for, simply because I didn’t feel inspired to create my masterpiece at that particular moment.
I would watch David Bowie videos on YouTube until my creative soul was sodden and frothing with so much inspiration that I’d go to bed, tired but enthralled and excited about the endless possibilities that lay before me. The next day, I swore, would be different. I would channel the Thin White Duke and create art like the world had never seen before. Tomorrow would be my moment to shine! Except I’d be a bit tired, so I’d read a book and surf Twitter, doing neither with any real conviction.
My horses of humanity were tucked out of sight behind the creative cart and I was expecting their long, drawn out faces to somehow nudge the creativity into the daylight. I expected to be full of ebullient inspiration before I could ever create anything of worth, as if I would literally burst with an ecstatic flourish and create my perfect masterpiece. Commiting myself to long torturous hours of work, prior to this pinnacle of individual expression, was an abstract concept.
I only wanted a cart and fuck the horses.
At this point I need to explain some intellectual shit to prove how intelligent I am. Jean-Paul Sartre said “existence precedes essence”, meaning that our actions determine who we are, rather than vice versa.
I may believe that I am the greatest artist that ever existed, however, that will not be true unless I translate it into action as an artist, by working to express myself. Once the work is created, my essence will be expressed. Holding a nebulous sense of noble, artistic intent in my head does not deliver enlightened work. Work, however, will deliver enlightened, noble, artisitic expression.
It is the action of sitting down and doing the work which creates my essence.
Thank you for reading this far. It seems like a mildly convoluted piece of writing that’s not particularly readable and felt akin to mild constipation to write. Three hours, two teas and a TED talk passed before I dragged myself to the laptop to type ninety minutes of faltering, stuttering text, before I’ve edited.
I didn’t sit down today to write because of a vital lesson I wanted to teach you, or because I’d had a ‘Eureka!’ moment when doing the washing up. I’m here because deep inside me I realise there’s a voice that wants to express itself so dearly, but it’s not strong enough alone. That’s why I compelled myself to sit down without inspiration and do the work, do the work, then do the work, even though I had nothing to write about. Something, namely my essence, would come.
Perhaps the horse is finally beginning to lead the cart.