One of my first nights on campus, I went to a coffeehouse at Usdan. It was a casual place for students to showcase their talents, but to me it was an introduction to a whole new world. I listened to a WeSLAM poet read her work and wondered, how does she do that? How does she take her thoughts and feelings and translate them into something so beautiful? This campus continues to amaze me with the incredible amount of creativity that it holds, and in the presence of all this creative energy, I became determined to learn the performers’ secrets.
After spending more and more time surrounded by inventiveness, I began to realize that success has no place in the quest for creative inspiration. This idea was well summarized by renowned Israeli screenwriter Ron Leshem, a guest lecturer who spoke last week as part of the Contemporary Israeli Voices Series. A student asked him where he finds his inspiration, and in his response he explained that writing is more of a discipline than many realize.
He said that the creative process includes diligently sitting at one’s computer for ten hours and writing, even if at the end of that time the writer is not happy with even one of his words. The idealist in me did not appreciate this realistic depiction of the creative process; wasn’t inspiration supposed to be a magical experience, filled with a natural fluidity? But Leshem explained that we must take matters into our own hands and consistently work hard even when our inspiration seems to have disappeared.
I began to wonder why this concept was so difficult to grasp. Why do we all feel so frustrated when our creative energy doesn’t quickly transform itself into a perfect product that adequately reflects the inspiration within us? Isn’t this simply a part of the creative process?
In other aspects of our lives, we are consistently rewarded for our success. When we do a good job, we receive some sort of positive outcome. This central concept in our lives results in a certain, somewhat limited, way of thinking. We begin to believe that the best thing for us to do with our potential and with our lives is to strive for success. We want to do good work, work that will satisfy both our standards and, hopefully, the standards of others whose opinions we value.
This is an honorable goal, and we should certainly all strive for this type of success. But we mustn’t forget to leave room for the messier, sometimes more frustrating, but often even more rewarding process of creative expression. Success is not an immediate result of creative expression, nor should it be the ultimate goal. Creating something meaningful is one of the most worthy goals that there is. But we must remember that this isn’t always easy, and that this difficulty is no reason to give up.
Maybe the true artist is perpetually dissatisfied. One may never be able to write the words or paint the images that perfectly represent hir vision, but the process of striving to let what is inside of us out can be extraordinary in itself if we let it occur. When we stop focusing on the end result and commit to working hard and attempting to create something that may matter, regardless of when or how, then we are becoming a part of a very meaningful human tradition. We can all take a lesson from our creative peers and be a little less fearful in expressing ourselves. We can leave the fear of failure and the desire for success behind and engage in an experience that can truly be magical.
Isabel Fattal is a member of the class of 2017.