I am a child of the 60’s and 70’s. I grew up with the Cold War, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, Women’s Liberation Movement, Haight-Ashbury, and Woodstock. I listened to the Beatles, the Stones, Dylan, Hendrix and the Doors. Songs of revolution, peace, and love filled the airwaves. No CD’s, DVD’s, cell phones existed. I listened to my music with the pops and crackles of vinyl, as I dreamed of how I would change the world in the Peace Corps and with my pen.
In my youth, I sought a plethora of ways to express myself. I sang in the choir and played in the symphonic and marching bands at school. I was in the Drama Club in high school. I wrote stories in several genres – fiction, non-fiction, romance, horror, and suspense. Just like the majority of avid readers out there, I dreamed of writing my first novel.
I came from a family of rebels. My Irish grandfather and grandmother fought against the military oppression of Ireland in the early 20th century. They left Ireland hoping to find freedom and new opportunities in New York City. My father was a first generation American raised in the South Bronx. Life wasn’t easy for Irish immigrants at the time. His family lived in tenements barely fit for habitation. Involvement in a gang made him grow up quickly. But my dad was a dreamer who prayed every night for a way out of the harsh realities of his life. He was a storyteller. He was a tortured soul who always seemed unhappy with his life despite its hard-won blessings.
The reason I tell you about my past is simple. Creativity requires courage. My immigrant family spent their days surviving. Their courage helped them overcome the hopelessness of their circumstances. They used their creativity in their efforts to survive, and survive they did. All of my grandparent’s children went to college. Even my father, with five children of his own, worked nights and went to college part-time to get a degree at age 40.
When I began to consider my life’s path, I was told to “get a real profession” to support myself. Fairly common advice from someone who knew what it was to grow up poor. I didn’t have the fierce resolve needed to follow my dreams. I listened to my parents’ advice and decided to pursue a nursing degree.
The nursing profession had a dire shortage of nurses in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I had a job months before I even graduated. I never felt at one with my choice of career. Although I worked hard, tried to increase my nursing education and advance my career; something was missing.
Over the years, I had attempted to find another outlet for my creative self. I painted, wrote stories, and began journals usually stopping without finishing them. Two years ago, I decided (along with a million plus other people) to write a blog. Two weeks later, I abandoned it. It’s a familiar story for many who struggle to align their creative self with the realities of everyday living.
Decades ago, I read a book entitled The Courage to Create by Rollo May for a college course. One quote from May’s book exemplifies my feelings about the role of creativity in my life.
“We express our being by creating. Creativity is a necessary sequel of being.” ~ Rollo May
My life hit a low patch not so long ago. I was soul searching trying to figure out what I wanted in my life. I didn’t know if I had the courage necessary to fulfill those dreams. Over the years, my negative self-talk helped to squash my feeble attempts at writing or any other creative efforts I’d undertaken.
Who was I? I didn’t have a MFA. Never published, I was one of the millions of ‘wanna-be’ writers. I continued to push away any story ideas caught up in my inner belief that I couldn’t write.
A good friend of mine is an artist who has worked with sculpture, painting, photography and glass art. We have known each other for almost 40 years and have watched each other’s struggles with the creative process over many of those years. She gifted me with the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert.
One of Gilbert’s ideas resonated with me. She believes all ideas are part of the universe. An energy unto themselves is searching for the right conduit to be realized. I always thought an artist was born to their talent. It was an innate part of their being.
Gilbert wrote about her belief that everyone could create, but only some people will embrace the ideas presented to them by the universe. If those ideas aren’t acted upon, they will continue to look for the right creative soul to bring them to fruition.
She uses one example I easily identified with – a commercial airs on TV for a new invention and someone watching will announce they had the same idea years ago, and if only… Haven’t we all either had the same feeling or know of someone else who did?
If we close ourselves off and refuse to acknowledge our desire to create, can we reach self- actualization? It’s a valid question. I didn’t live in constant angst or depression because I couldn’t write. I have a wonderful life, but some switch flipped when I started writing in earnest. Writing wasn’t a chore, but an outlet for my unrealized creative passion. Something else happened as my focus on writing was renewed, I discovered a way to help others.
I joined the Kindle Write On forum and through my association with some of the other writers, I became involved in The One Million Project (OMP). Over 90 writers, artists, musicians and media professionals from around the world have pooled their creative energies into a volunteer effort to raise money for the charities — Cancer Research UK and EMMAUS. This global network volunteers their artwork, stories, music and time towards raising money to help the homeless and fund cancer research.
OMP has compiled a collection of 24 short stories and original artwork into a book, The One Million Project. The OMP is a NON-PROFIT hoping to raise 1,000,000 British Pounds for charity through the sale of this book, and all continuing revenues will go towards the One Million Project Foundation which will continue to raise money for charity as well as invest in the Arts/Creative projects. 90% of all money raised in perpetuity will go towards this purpose.
I cannot help, but think, if creativity is a force in the universe looking for a way to be fulfilled, The One Million Project is the culmination of its efforts to ease the pain and suffering.
OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues.
Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers. Her full length book EXODUS is also available on Amazon.