Creative Compost

I wrote a blog earlier today. And it stank.

It stank like a bucket of prawns in the sun. It stank like a drain. It stank so much it took my mind off the stinky cat litter in the next room.

It stank like a compost heap.

Why am I writing about a stinky blog? Because I think we, as creatives, are too quick to cover up our vulnerabilities.

There. I said it.

We are too quick to cover up our vulnerabilities.

We feel vulnerable all the time. We try to escape it, to cover it up with shows of strength or self-depreciating humour. But it is still there, festering out of sight. Like a backyard compost heap.

Writers feel vulnerable. Musicians feel vulnerable. Especially when the time has come to show your work to someone else. I have started to share my creative work recently, and it has resulted in acute feelings of vulnerability.

The vulnerability talk goes something like this:

‘Why did I think I could write this book? Why on earth am I publishing a video of myself for all the world to see? What on earth possessed me to record this song? What if noone cares? Just who do I think I am, anyway?’

This vulnerability is more than the imposter syndrome. I believe it is driven by fear.

Vulnerability is driven by fear.

I do not want people to dislike my book. I do not want to hear criticism of my work, no matter how fair and reasonable it is. I do not want people to laugh at my music. My books and songs are my babies. And I do not want anyone to think my babies are ugly.

Many of us cover up our creative work, utterly convinced noone will ever like it and we will only fail. We are so persuaded of our own failure, even before we have tried, that we may never try. It seems too risky. We might get hurt.

You know what really stinks? There is no way around this creative vulnerability.

There are absolutely no shortcuts. If you share your creative work – even with just one other person – you risk getting hurt. Taking that risky step is the beginning of vulnerability.

But even worse than vulnerability is paralysis.

Even worse than vulnerability is paralysis.

Some of us never share our creativity for fear of vulnerability and failure. It hurts too much. The fear of rejection runs deep. So we keep our creativity a secret, frozen into writing and rehearsing and honing our craft in the privacy of our minds. That is a shame.

Because creativity was made for an audience. Beauty in all its forms, whether musical, literary, artistic, natural, performed or spoken, has to be seen and heard and felt. Creativity does not thrive in a vacuum. It must be set free.

Even if it stinks.

The compost heap, on its own, is no good. It just sits there, decaying, creating nothing more than a profoundly undesirable aroma. But stick that compost heap on the ground, where the nutrients can soak into the soil, and it can do the world of good.

Our creative work, just like compost, can revitalise and heal and replenish. It can motivate and inspire. It can move and melt and mend.

Our creative work can do the world of good.

By all means, create in private. Practise and refine your skills. But do me a favour. At some point, stick it out in the garden where it can nourish others.

Do you have creative gifts? Are you nervous about sharing them? In what ways have you already shared your creativity with others? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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