Letting Out a #2

There are two main urges that drive the need to create and share what we create:

  1. We are driven by muses whispering or shouting in our ears, urging us to craft our crafts. To not create, write, paint, cook, to not fill-in-the-blank is a treasonable act to whoever our Divine intervener may be.
  2. We are driven by the need to be paid attention to.

Taking a #1 out is a noble act. We stand with dignity because we are performing humble service to greater gods. If anyone charges us with vainglorious motivations, we can say “Don’t blame me…twas the muses that made me do it.” Taking a #1 is the right reason to create.

But for many of us it’s not the truth. Sure, the muses speak to us, but that’s certainly not the only reason we create. We create because we want people to notice us for our special snowflakeness. We want to lather ourselves with the warm bubbles of attention. We are driven by the need to take a #2.

#2 is not noble. Rather than standing with dignity, we squat with our asses out. The main god involved is us–we pay homage to our own (usually mistaken) godliness.

Many people have no compunction about their #2’s, as any reality TV show will attest. Like the boy who hits his brother to direct his parents’ gaze toward him, any attention is the right attention.

But there are those of us who feel shame about our #2’s. We don’t think we should want attention. People driven by #2 are not expressing a very human desire–they are broken, desperate and pathetic. They are the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boos of the world. That’s not me, we say.

We deny our #2. We pretend it’s just #1. We invoke faux-muses and throw around words without action.

Rather than confessing our desires, we cling to the delusion that the urge is just a #1. But the urge is inauthentic, or at least incomplete, and as a result we end up moving slowly or, more often, doing nothing at all. We keep quiet. We don’t write or paint or cook or sing or dance or…you get the idea.

What I propose today is that creativity is not motivated by #1 or #2–that most creative expression starts with a trickle of #1, but is then followed by a big #2. Whether this okay or not is irrelevant. It just is. And the more we deny our need to let out our #2, the more uncomfortable we become.

If you’re concerned about becoming a Kardashian, remember the words of WB Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” The Kardashians, teeming with passionate intensity, are popular because they are unencumbered by #2 shame. Attention is not a problem for them so far as we can tell. What if we exhibited a little more of that freedom, mixed with a little more #1? Might the world be a slightly better place?

Today, do not deny your #2 urge. Welcome attention.

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