Can Good People be Creative?



In the last month, I finished a couple of two-year work projects theoretically freeing me up to focus on my writing more. However as I methodically try to reduce my work hours, my volunteer time seems to increase proportionally. I am roped into helping to save our high school, sitting on the PAC, being a cub leader, helping with my mother’s medical care, counseling friends, and showing up for other miscellaneous good causes, on top of my ongoing childcare and household responsibilities. All arguably good or even great causes, but they interfere with my creative time and contribute to my stress level.

I recently attended a book reading by Caroline Woodward author of Penny loves Wade, Wade loves Penny published by Oolican Books. She now lives on a lighthouse Lennard Island Lighthouse at the entrance to Clayoquot Sound, near Tofino, BC. She stated that living on the lighthouse allowed her to be more creative because for the first time she could stop being “good”.

Many creative people say that the number one ingredient for being creative is solitude. In The War of Art Steven Pressfield speaks of resistance being all those things that keep you from doing what you really want to do - that you need to be ruthlessly protective of your creative time. Today I spent an hour and a half engaged in my mother’s medical care, forty-five minutes counseling a depressed friend, forty-five minutes looking after someone else’s child, an hour packing to go to cub camp and several hours caring for my own children, grocery shopping and preparing dinner. This left a total of an hour and a half out of my day to be creative. And I still have to write a cub skit.

I do not resent most of these activities – not only am I helping the people and community that are important to me but I do get value out of them – enjoyment, gratitude, recognition, experiences and the feeling of having helped. They tether me to real life and provide me with a community of friends.

But where are the lines between being creative and making yourself happy, living up to life’s reasonable responsibilities, and on being too “good” to be creative? Nobody ever says – hey you’ve been “good enough” for this year. Go be creative for awhile. The more I do, the more people seem to expect from me. And the more people seem to get resentful when I try to steal back my writing time or simply do not answer the phone. Lady Gaga, love her or hate her, has embraced her creativity in a remarkable way and espouses messages of personal freedom and doing what is right for you rather than trying to make other people happy.

Pressfield’s notion of the Unlived Life and how much that costs us as a society and individuals nags at me – the idea that not doing what we want or living our dreams costs us in the long run. As I looked around the waiting room of the doctor’s office while I waited with my mother, it struck me that all of the other people waiting seemed to be suffering from depression, and I wondered what role the Unlived Life plays in my mother’s illness. At the very least, that she never lived the life she wanted makes the consequences of her sudden decline in ability and life expectancy all the more difficult for her to come to terms with.

So every day I try to ruthlessly walk the boundary between my unlived life and being too good. But I’m thinking I might need to look for a vacant lighthouse.

Photo Credit: boskizzi via Compfight