Creative: Who Am I Not to Be

17990210_10101263858354982_3911944009933736439_oI moved to Los Angeles four years ago from Kansas. That doesn’t make me special. It’s actually quite cliché: the gay guy from the Midwest who escapes the doldrums of small town life to chase the allure of the big city lights. I live in a locale where people arrive every day from all over the world, their dreams and ambitions powering their journey for a different life. Like so many here, I fancy myself a creative: a believer that I have some sort of artistic magic that needs to be shared with the world; entrenched in the mindset that I have intrinsic talent that needs to be read; and motivated by an urgent sense that my words can have some sort of positive effect.

Or so I did. Somewhere along the way my identity as a creative faded and lately I’ve been wondering exactly what it is I am.

I’m a writer, or at least I used to be. In Kansas, I had a popular column called “Homo on the Range” and I wrote for the Wichita Eagle about art, music, and local entertainment. I understood what it meant to be a creative in a place like Wichita. In HotR, my words were helping to further a much-needed dialogue about LGBT equality. When I wrote for the Eagle, those bylines were either illuminating emerging, unsung, or often-times celebrated artistry or they were spotlighting unique cultural happenings. I saw the value in using my ability to write as a vehicle for enticing people into an interactive experience with art. I understood that stories can change minds and that words can shift hearts. In short, I knew what it meant to be a creative force. On that understanding, I was certain that I’d be able to power forward in a new city.

A funny thing happened when I moved to LA, though: my creative spark flat-lined.

It was all a rush of newness at first: hiking in scenic mountains overlooking a metropolis full of billions of lights; miles long walks along the roaring ocean; an endless buffet of colorful vegan food; literally millions of people from every culture around the world. I didn’t have the desire to write because I just wanted to experience life—and I did! Newness eventually fades into normalcy, though. After a while anything becomes routine. Once the luster wore off and I settled into a state of static contentment, I found that when I would try to write, that spark just wasn’t there. Accessing that part of me had always been innate, but suddenly, it was a struggle. It didn’t take me long to realize why.

Inferiority: a massive case of self-doubt and an all-consuming feeling that I’m not good enough.

It’s easy to think that you have talent when you live in a mid-sized city with a largely manufacturing economy where creatives usually bolt for urban and more densely-populated locales after high school. Yet, when you move to the entertainment capital of the world, there are thousands of new people arriving everyday who are more accomplished, more ambitious, better educated, and better looking than you. They’re not afraid to say that to your face, either! It’s also easy to think you’re special when conformity is the predominant culture. In Kansas, my brand was being a progressive gay activist in a red state who was unashamed of being myself and who embraced funkier tastes in fashion, food, and art. Which means that in Los Angeles, I’m basically invisible! When I moved here I realized there was literally nothing special about me. I had nothing to offer that wasn’t already being done. I had no words to say that would be of any use to anyone. I used to think I had books, movies, and TV shows inside of me that just needed the space to be written and birthed to the world. I quickly found out that there’s a hundred-thousand people in front of me, though, who are all better developed and better connected. So I just surrendered to that feeling of inferiority.

Then I started working at a spiritual community center in Venice Beach: something that is even a little weird for Los Angeles! In a temple full of painters, musicians, visionaries, and entrepreneurs I was certain I would rekindle that creative spark. The opposite happened. I found myself charged with the responsibility of bringing needed order and structure to a free-flowing concept that, while beautiful in its pure state, needed parameters to grow.  Organizational charts, budget tracking, revenue forecasting, and staff job descriptions became my life. Sure, there’s a certain spark of creativity in every venture—but this wasn’t the creative mission I was looking for.

I did somehow manage to fashion a unique brand, though it wasn’t exactly one I anticipated or relished embracing: while still flashy, colorful, and very gay I was also a Hillary Clinton-supporting Democrat in a community full of largely anarchist-minded Bernie Sanders voters. I value common sense and hard work, and found myself less interested in “vision-boarding” and “manifesting” than I was eager to just get shit done. Once branded “a militant liberal” by a state lawmaker in Kansas, I was suddenly a conservative! It was the beliefs I had about my own power that proved to be the most limiting, though. With rotating life-coaches, healers, celebrities, and rock stars who had no problem asserting their voice and talents, I found myself constantly struggling to get a word in. Every person I’d meet seemed more charming, better looking, and far more gifted that me. Over time I just gave up. I conceded my creative talents to what I internalized as being the superior artistic gifts those around me possessed. I quietly decided to let the creatives do their world-changing thing, and I’d stay in my organized, practical corner getting shit done. Or, as set up by this mindset, getting shit on. Ironically by the time our center closed its doors, I felt as out of place in ultra-liberal, avant-hipster Venice as I did in conservative, Republican Wichita—and I meditate with crystals and practice kundalini yoga every day!

This is usually the point where I would blame someone else for my experience or go further down the line of attack on myself. The one great thing about being “invisible” in Los Angeles is that it’s given me a lot of space for personal growth. Now I know better. It was a gift that I moved here and had my identity completely stripped away. When you let go of who you think you are you can allow in all that you didn’t even know you could become.

During my first weeks in LA, I attended a Marianne Williamson lecture. The celebrate author and spiritual teacher gives regular talks about a metaphysical text call A Course In Miracles. She said something that night I’ll never forget. Reading from her first book, A Return to Love, her words were a jolt to a lifetime of self-doubt:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

12970883_10100910347882802_3382417353157470810_oMy fear has always been that I’m not good enough and that because of this I’ll never succeed or do anything significant with my life. It’s why so many times I’ve gotten close to achieving something I deeply desired and then gave up or saw it fade away. What I experience has never had anything to do with anybody else; every occurrence has been 100% self-perpetuated.  You can change your location, you can shift your vocation, you can alter your look, you can dabble in different practices, and you can surround yourself with a whole new tribe; but until you’re ready to fully own the responsibility that comes with being who you are in any given lifetime, you’ll never really be satisfied. Hence why I felt the same in Venice as I did in Wichita—in this specific area, while I was living in two different locations at two very different points of my life, I was mentally in exactly the same space!

So yes, I am a creative. It’s my essence. Not because I’ve created anything significant lately, but because intrinsically I know it’s part of what I came here to do. I can’t say that I have that “spark” back just yet, but I do feel as though there’s been a shift in my own perception. I don’t need to be like anyone else or have the status, recognition, fame, or following of another writer or creative. I just need to write from a place of authenticity, and trust that my words will be useful to whoever needs to read them. Accepting that actually takes a lot of the pressure off. Something about that spurs me to get typing again!

 

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