Singing In The Streets Of New York With Aretha (My Public Declaration Of Creative Love)

Street Carnival
image: austinhk

I had the most amazing dream once where I opened my mouth to reveal a singing voice somewhere between Percy Sledge, Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass, and was strutting down the steps of a huge New York hotel arm in arm and duetting with none other than Aretha Franklin.

The whole street stopped what they were doing, there were streamers and balloons everywhere, construction workers were harmonising, policemen shaking their hips, couples dancing. Everyone was bursting with happiness and delighted to be swept up in such a performance.

Best dream ever. I’ll never forget it.

But for now, let’s just put that little movie on pause in a safe corner of your mind (we’ll come back to it soon I promise!) and think about this:

In your day to day life, do you openly talk about your creative work, and how important it is to you?

Do you share with other people the details of your latest projects, the ones you’re so excited about you can barely wait to get busy creating them?

Or, instead, are you hiding in a kind of creativity closet?

Is your entire identity as an artist a more fiercely guarded secret than the simultaneous split life of some top level Government Agent?

Most of us have had our work – indeed our very existences as artists – mocked, criticised and misunderstood.

We know what the hurt feels like, and it’s perfectly understandable that we might withdraw into our own creative worlds to protect ourselves from similar potential situations in the future.

It’s certainly a sensible idea to avoid the kind of conversations, and the kind of people, that you know are never going to “get” what you create, how you create, or why you create.

Spending endless exhausting conversations trying to explain and justify the importance of creativity in your life, to people who will never understand, or don’t even want to, is just not worth the effort. Your energy is far better channelled into your creativity.

But the danger is withdrawing so far, and becoming so protective and secretive about your creative life, that you even forget yourself that you’re an artist!

For creativity to retain, and maintain, its rightful place at the centre of your life, you need to not only acknowledge it, but also celebrate it.

Just to be clear, we’re talking here about the kind of creativity that infuses everything you do, not just the times you sit down to create a specific art project.

Creative artists like you and I can’t switch off our creativity.

And why would we want to?

It’s broadcasting constantly, like a never ending radio channel. It touches and influences everything you do – the way you think, see, speak and act.

If you try to deny, or worse, bury, your creative identity, it will slowly erode your confidence. You’ll feel a constant emptiness, like a part of you has died.

Your creativity needs regular exercise, encouragement and attention. Give it a little dose of each of these every day and it will thrive.

It begins with acknowledgement.

How much of your day to day life is influenced by your creativity? You could argue that every thought you think, every word you utter, every step you take, is a new creative act.

Your creativity is abundantly present in the everyday – how you dress, the relationships you’re in, the social events you’re a part of, the way you prepare your food – and a hundred other little areas that we mostly overlook and discount.

At the very least, acknowledge to yourself the huge part creativity plays in your life.

Taking this a step further, we can begin the celebrations.

Publicly, in the street, with music, balloons, streamers, Aretha Franklin, harmonising construction workers and shimmying policemen. If you so wish. I can recommend it.

If you want to begin in a slightly more modest way though, the simplest public celebration of your creativity is to just create in public.

This could mean stopping on a street corner to sketch a bird searching for worms for its young.

It could mean popping out your notebook in a cafe and writing a story inspired by the curious European woman in the corner with the red shoes and tiny twin dogs.

It could be taking your camera out in the park in late spring when the blossoms are falling and filming beautiful short movies.

When you do any of these kinds of things, you’re declaring publicly your love of creating. Plus, you’re inspiring others in ways you might never even realise.

Don’t hide your creativity away. Acknowledge and celebrate it’s central role on your life.

Maybe you won’t need Aretha and the construction workers, but give it that daily attention it deserves and it will pay you back a hundred times over and more.


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3 thoughts on “Singing In The Streets Of New York With Aretha (My Public Declaration Of Creative Love)”

  1. While I assume from your dream that you do not at present have the singing voice you would like to flaunt in the streets, why not salsa down the street with or without a couple of friends?
    The day after you report to me you have done it, I will do it as well, thousands of miles from your excellent example, though I am not a skilled salsa teacher as you are.


  2. Well, funny you should mention that Fritzie, as I’m doing that very thing tomorrow! A friend is doing a display in a local shopping centre for BeatBullying, and a few of us are going along to dance, another friend is singing, so hopefully we’ll entertain the Saturday shoppers!

    Plus we’re doing another music and dance event in a couple of weeks where the whole street is going to be closed. 🙂


  3. Sounds delightful. It is just about the season of organized indoor-outdoor performance festivals, isn’t it? Our big one is the Folklife Festival, starting one week from today) in which tens of thousands of people who don’t know each other will participate in some form in a very public way at the Seattle Center.


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