Burning Creativity

Recently, I read about a group of people in Tennessee burning books that they disagree with. That’s within their First Amendment rights to do, but it’s most often done out of willful ignorance. Burning creativity is not the answer to anyone’s problems and it surely demotes creativity as a whole.

I told you that I’d be getting more personal with my essays here. This one is no exception.

I believe that the visual of burning books is a great metaphor for how creative individuals are often regarded in our society. We all love creative kids. We look at them with awe and say, “Wow, you drew that picture? You’re going to be a great artist.” But as time goes by we tell them to give up that silly dream of becoming an artist and to get with the program. We tell them that they need to get a good job or go to college to study for a real career. We essentially strip them of their passion, their goals, and their dreams.

This has been my own experience. I spent the first 12 years of my adulthood writing and recording music. I sent out dozens of demo tapes. In the early 1990s, I made two trips to Nashville and stayed for several months. The entertainment business is a hard nut to crack but does that mean it should be avoided by those of us who are truly creative?

Growing up, my parents never encouraged my creativity. I don’t remember ever being told that I had any special talent that I might be able to use in a future profession. Still, I tried.

But the world kept telling me to quit, to get a real job, to go to college and get a career. So I did. And although I’ve kept making music and writing on the side, my college and carreer path took priority. You could say I was burning creativity.

Burning books suggests that the people who wrote them don’t deserve to be recognized as writers and artists. I don’t claim that some titles that get thrown into the fire are fine works of art, but a creative individual still spent years to develop their craft. Burning their work suggests that they’re creativity is worthless. That’s not only sad, it enforces that same old idea that we should only promote the status quo, and creativity is not part of that status quo.

Looking at my own creative works, (and excuse me if I sound egotistical), I have a large and impressive catalog. I’ve written more than 1000 songs. Bruce Springsteen just sold the rights to his catalog for $550 million. The only difference between Bruce and me is that my work has remained undiscovered by the industry. I’ve also composed hundreds of instrumental works that could be used as music in video games, TV shows, and films. I’ve written hundreds of poems. And finally, I’ve written a series of books based on my childhood of being the victim of an extreme cult that not only get good reviews by readers, but would likely do very well as a Netflix series.

So I have to ask myself if I’m burning creativity by continuing to follow the standard of our society? I have a good job. I own a home. I’m comfortable. But dammit, I know my creative works have value. Now that I’m almost 60 years old and have some health concerns, the conservative side of me says I should just keep working the day job until I’m 65. I need the medical insurance and the retirement money. And that’s likely what I’ll do.

But there’s another part of me that says piss on that. That part of me wants to quit my job and take a chance at getting my creative works into the right hands, to allow them to gain the larger audiences I believe they deserve. Otherwise, perhaps I’m no less guilty than those ignorant asses who are burning books in Tennessee, just burning creativity. – dse

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Author: Dan Steven Erickson

Dan Steven Erickson is a great undiscovered American songwriter.