You would think that encouragement is always welcome. Who doesn’t need a little encouragement, from time to time, right? I thought that too, but I’ve discovered that encouragement can be most unwelcome – catastrophically so – in some circumstances.
We’re brought up to seek comfort, in this life, by getting a well-paying, secure, “proper” job and keeping our heads down, working hard and waiting for the rewards of that career choice to accumulate. As a life strategy, that can work. There is no doubt about it. Many people follow that path and receive nice things, for having played their part dutifully. They succeed. It enables them to have a nice house and cars, some gorgeous holidays and to raise fine children, in relative comfort and privilege. This path can take you a long way; there is no doubt about it. Unfortunately, that choice comes with a cost.
There are many individuals that are highly creative, who develop outstanding talents in writing, music, philosophical pursuits, spirituality, acting, singing, theatrical performance, crafts, culinary arts, and so on. Every now and then you will find somebody that has developed interests and abilities in all of these. Those extraordinary individuals, as able as they are, show even more potential in these pursuits. In their presence, you feel that they could go as far as any human being could, in those spheres of creativity, given the right encouragement. They’re inspiring and something in you, as a human being, cannot help but admire them for their talents and hope that they can continue to express their creativity, benefiting all of mankind with it. You just want them to go on and create all the beauty you sense they are capable of making.
What do you do, then, when that person is determined to turn their back on all of these creative talents and pursue something far more solid, as a career? That’s not to say they wouldn’t apply their extraordinary creativity to their chosen field, thereby making them one of the very best of their kind, compared to their peers, but it is to say that they would more or less stop writing, making music, acting, performing and paying as much serious attention to the abilities they have already begun to demonstrate. They might not stop completely, but they definitely wouldn’t develop their talents to the fullest extent possible. The flower of their creativity would never fully blossom. The novels won’t be written, their songs would never be composed, performed or recorded, and they won’t appear on stage very often. In short, humanity will be denied that part of their very considerable creative output.
You might think that no loss. In applying their creativity to a proper job, they make a better world that way. Besides, there are legions of other talented people who will fill the void, writing their stories, making their music and entertaining us all. That would be correct, but it neglects the price paid by the highly creative individual.
My belief, fervently held, is that if you are a creative person, with creative interests and partially developed talents, they represent a significant aspect of your soul and being, as a person. If you leave those parts of your makeup underappreciated, unimproved and neglected, it eventually weighs heavily on you. I don’t know if that’s a universal experience, but I suspect that it is. Nobody wants to die with music still hiding inside of them. If you once had the motivation and interest to create imaginative stories, eventually those stories, which you don’t take the time to write down and craft with care, well up inside you, almost demanding that you pay attention to them and let them out. To deny those creative impulses is to impose a slow death on yourself.
If you are an intuitive, empathic observer of somebody that insists on consigning their creative talents to the closet, while they earnestly apply themselves to the obtaining and perfection of a proper career, you might feel a deep, acutely painful pang of regret, which causes you to act upon it. The thought of seeing a beautiful, creative person tortured by their own unrealised creativity can cause you to say something, especially if you care about them as human beings.
You might try to encourage them to take their creative talents more seriously and to respect their authentic condition more reverently. In so doing, you might be accused of trying to sabotage their career, of second guessing their life choices in a patronising and demeaning way and of trying to undermine their life plan. The fear that their talents are not good enough, to make a comfortable living with them, may come to the fore. Perhaps they are realistic enough to understand that a life, honouring their talents, would be a struggle, compared to the relative ease of the proper career path. What they underestimate, though, is the difficulty of keeping those creative talents at bay – undeveloped and unexposed. That’s the price that must be paid for the safety and security.
When you meet a person like this, your encouragement to pursue their many gifts is unwelcome. They might never speak to you again. Your encouragement may be met with a lion’s maw. Your insistent encouragement is unlikely to change their mind and convince them to pay more attention to their own considerable creativity. The encouragement will be resented. That’s a pity.
In the end, people make their own choices and decisions, in life. It might pain you to see talents wasted, or at least never brought to their fullest potential. There might be a great deal of regret involved in seeing a person like this, later in life, struggling with frustration, boredom, regrets and the certain knowledge that they could have made more of their creativity. Sure, it’s possible that they never miss their un-realised creative pursuits, but it seems highly doubtful to me, especially when the initial promise was so pronounced. Equally, they may take a stance of public, steadfast denial, for self-preservation reasons, insisting that nobody ought to be obliged to create, just because they can create. In any case, it’s their bed, which they made and they must lie in it.
I’ve said it before, but encouragement really is a very delicate art. In trying too hard to encourage an artist, you might cause them to, instead, dig their heels in and reject their own talents more determinedly. Your encouragement might be wholly counterproductive. My advice, especially to younger people, is to encourage carefully and judiciously, without smothering the artist. Sometimes, the very thing you would like to see flourish will, instead, wither and die, because of your insistence that it be nurtured. That’s the opposite of what you hoped would happen. It’s very sad and regrettable, when it does.
Encourage with caution. It’s not always welcome.