New Years day is a time for retrospection and introspection, and I’ve been thinking that my wish for a new year always involves the creative process–projects I’m working on or dreaming of. I always want to have more drive, focus, energy, skill. According to my slightly skewed definition of “a successful life,” I need to make things and to share them with others–to be an artist (though I would stretch the definition of artist to encompass doodling, making nice meals, and humming nonsense as you walk around town).
“But wait a minute,” I could imagine somebody replying. “What if I can’t create anything? What if I just don’t want to?” Which is, of course, a reasonable response. And I’ve got another option for you. Because I was thinking that I also very much admire admirers. The ability to appreciate something is just as valuable as the ability to create something. In fact, I believe appreciation is an important part of the creative process. To be moved by something, to see its beauty, to be excited by it, to be a fan–this is a valuable skill, a gift, as well as a source of happiness. And appreciating the work of others will only make your own work richer and more vibrant.
In most aspects of my life I happily fall into this category. I like writing, when it goes well it’s one of my greatest joys. But it’s frustrating, too, and not comparable to the strong pure pleasure of reading a well-written book. I’d like to make another film–I literally dream of it–but it’s so expensive and complicated. Watching good films, however, brings the pleasure of immersing yourself in a world of somebody else’s genius.
Nothing is created in a vacuum – if you’re singing along to a song you love as you drive to work, you’re an important part of the process of making that song, and your life is richer for it. When you read a novel you’re creating the world of the book in your head as you go. And you’re keeping it there forever in the quotes and characters who stay with you, as you are with the songs which transport you to another time in your life. The songs that made you smile, and the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life, as you lay in awe on the bedroom floor. You give them life.
And I was thinking that even something so mundane and quotidian as cooking (and eating) is a perfect microcosm of the macrocosm of the whole creative process, encapsulated in each meal. It’s a distillation of the pleasure of creating and sharing. You don’t have to be a chef to take pleasure in cooking. And, as much fun as a meal is to cook, it would be nothing without somebody to taste it.
Of course another important important part of the creation of anything is the sharing of it–to bring people together to appreciate and celebrate. When you love something, you want other people to love it, too, that’s part of the pleasure in enjoying anything. And it is this spirit of warmth and connection and the generosity of people who share their work that sustains Tidings of Magpies.
So cheers to all of my fellow readers and listeners and watchers, as well as to the sharers, curators and patrons! Best wishes for a healthy, happy, creative and fulfilling 2023!
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