Notes on living a creative life

Recently, I read a life-changing book as part of my album concept development process. It’s been years since I’ve stumbled over one of these babies. Tears of recognition flowed. Full body goosebumps erupted. Mostly, a blessed relief at being seen and acknowledged through clear and compassionate eyes for who I am. Not who I want to be. Not who I think I am but who I actually am. A bold Nikko outline of an undeniable truth gleaned by careful observation of self tripping and falling a thousand times and waking up in pits of despair as the dark dog chases me round in circles. The book is called “Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests and Passions to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams” and it’s by Barbara Sher. It’s a self-development book. You know, the how-to-live-your-best-life-ever kind of book, the you-can-have-anything-you-can-imagine-if-you-attract-it-by-focusing-your-energy-and-attention kind of book. It’s not the kind of book I pick up these days. Lately, I pelt in the opposite direction from anyone telling me there is, in fact, a simple five-step process and a single answer to the human condition. However, I found myself watching her TED talk with the fabulous click-bait title, Isolation is the dream-killer, not your attitude and it touched me. She touched me. A woman in her 60s with a New York accent and a no-nonsense, no woo-woo, non-positive thinking approach she calls, “self improvement for people who hate self-improvement.” Yep, I’d found a home). Plus she’s dry, hilarious and full of stories: a winning combination every time.

Baby & Border Collies. Mira Chorik. 2022.

Refuse to Choose! Talks about these people she calls Scanners who generally spend their lives feeling like incompetent failures because of an inability to choose one thing, one career, one hobby, one interest and a single undying passion. This inability to choose leads to a constant state of internal conflict (ie. If you dig too many holes you’ll never find water… Jack of all trades = master of none… ).These apparent truisms are built into the bedrock of society and act as constant sources of shame and guilt for Scanners. No matter how they try, they can't choose just one thing even though it’s logical, impossible to refute and may well be the smartest and easiest thing to do. Seventy-one thousand success coaches can’t be wrong. Surely, this is how the world works? 

Wrap Sheet @ the Old Lock Up. 2021. Mira Chorik & Mieke Van den Berg. Toilet paper. 6.72m x 2.38m

Not so according to Barbara or at least, it wasn’t always this way. Barbara believes the monofocus and pressure on career to be one thing only began post WWII and the race for space. At the time, the USA realised the best shot their scientists had to beat the USSR to the moon was specialisation. To drill down ever deeper into microscopic areas of expertise. This approach worked. Neil strutted his stuff on the lunar surface and the idea blossomed overnight into a belief the entire modern western culture took on. Barbara goes into understanding the type of Scanner you are and practical strategies for juggling nineteen love projects simultaneously (yep, that shit is logistically HARD people... no doubt about it… it would be far easier to just have one direction). The book has a career focus but what she’s really talking about is how to live a creative life: how to be an artist.

Me as Carrie White in my musical tribute to Stephen King: Bow Down to Your Queen. North Lakes Library, 2021.

As someone who’s been attempting to live a creative life for decades, I’m shaking my head at the futility of putting into words my full-bodied bliss at being so completely seen. I’ve struggled with this for as long as I can remember. Every day leaves me diminished and doubtful about what I want to do to the point where I don’t even attempt to do the things I really want to because, what’s the point right? I’m not a specialist. I haven’t devoted twenty-seven years to unravelling the intricacies of the grand piano and practising six hours a day. No one will ever listen to me and I'll never get anywhere.. Despite this onslaught of punitive negative vibes intended as deterrence, no matter how I try, I can’t choose. I want to write songs. I want to play analogue synthesiser music with my friend, Miro. I want to make albums! I want to read classic literature and write stories. I want to paint and draw squares and triangles and make random home-crafts and collaborate with other artists. I want to perform on stage and take playful snaps of synchronicities. I want to delve into deep philosophy, mindfulness and theories of aesthetics! I want to write and direct musical shows for the theatre. I want to make love and make poetry! I want to hold space for loss and sad songs in community events. I want to go on five-day hiking camping trips and swim naked in rock pools, practice guitar, cook, meditate, dance in my living room, study a PhD and be an amazing grandmamma, friend and partner!! I want to do it ALL.

Completion. Mira Chorik. 2015.

A final realisation in the idea of refusing to choose: that it's an extraordinary gift to have so many interests, so many passions, so many things I care deeply about in my life. Even though it's overwhelming, waking up with waterfalls of inspiration pounding in my head at 2.37am on a regular basis when I need to get up at 6.00am, I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm blessed to posses a big and creative mind and if my creative impulses are managed the right way on a practical level, it will prove to be an ongoing source of pleasure, joy and gratitude. It might even contribute to other people's lives in a positive way too.

No. 7. Mira Chorik. 2020. 300dpi. 7644px x 3882px.

So here goes, a messy and ever more (hopefully light-hearted) and celebratory attempt at being an artist, letting the creative impulse move where it will, free of the chains of believing that: 

1. Life would be better if I had an EPIPHANY where I try a new activity and instantly, with every fibre in my being, I KNOW this is it. Lightning flashes. Thunder roars. A choir of angels sing. Nothing else has ever made me feel so alive. The single path ahead illuminated in flashing neon colours. THIS is what you've been waiting for, Mira!! 

2. I’m a failure because I haven’t (yet) experienced an epiphany like the one detailed above (or more accurately, I experience wild waves of new passions several times a month but disregard them as nothing special due to the regularity I am filled with heart-pulsing and belly-trembling inspirations), and 

3. I would be a happier and more successful artist if I was fortunate enough to have said revelatory epiphany.

Me at a Climate Action Day. Sunshine Coast, October 2021.

When writing this blog post, I came across the work of Mary Caroline Richards who champions this approach. As a devoted Scanner, poet, potter, painter, teacher and philosopher she wrote the 1964 counter-culture classic called, Centering in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (I'm off to read it now).

"Are you going to be an earthy person – practical, down-to-earth, get-to-it? Or are you going to be a dreamer, a visionary? We’re going to be both. And, we can’t be, shouldn’t be, talked out of it. I am both. Don’t tell me I have to choose. I don’t have to choose. I am both, and I live in the crossing point." - M.C. Richards.

With thanks: