I’ve read three very interesting books recently that created this essay. I’ve been focusing more on my writing these past twelve months, but it has yet to reach a level of consuming passion. I may never get there, but after finishing the trio of books, I feel much less of a failure.
I picked up a copy of Kevin Ashton’s How to Fly A Horse on a whim, but I’m glad I did. His premise is that the creative process is a myth, and that every single person is creative; but what makes a successful inventor, discoverer or artist, is simply hard work and doing it over and over again. Writer’s block, among many other concepts, doesn’t exist. Kevin is also the creator of the phrase Internet of Things. The title refers to the Wright Brothers.
Kevin: The creativity myth implies that few people can be creative, that any successful creator will experience dramatic flashes of insight, and that creating is more like magic than work. A rare few have what it takes, and for them it comes easy. Anybody else’s creative efforts are doomed.
He goes on to use examples both ancient and modern to bolster his thesis. Along the way, he shows through studies and clinical trials, that as the number of participants goes up, creativity goes down. In fact, Kevin claims that creative cooperation peaks in kindergarten. I, like many of you, will agree with this premise. Anybody who has suffered through production meetings, brainstorming sessions and forced teamwork can readily attest to the fact that one person creating alone is the most successful. He closes the book with this:
Kevin: The chain of creation is many links longs, and every link—each one person creating—is essential. All stories of creators tell the same truth: that creating is extraordinary but creators are human; that everything right with us can fix anything wrong with us; and that progress is not an inevitable consequence but an individual choice. Necessity is not the mother of invention. You are.
Two autobiographies picked up on this theme: Yanni in Words, and Tom Jones Over The Top And Back. I found striking similarities in both men’s accounts of their artistic struggle to creative success. One similarity was passion for music, Yanni writing and Tom singing, and another was the way that success drew sexual attention. The road is a soul crushing grind that never seems to end, but both of them used the creative and sexual fire to fuel their success.
Yanni: If you are the music, you can write the music. If you’re not the music, you’re outside, judging it. Judgment and creativity are opposites. Both are valid, but they can’t exist in the same place at the same time. To create, you have to become one with your creation and let it flow freely. You have to be in the zone. For me, I have to become one with the music. The instant I begin judging my creation, I find myself outside looking in, and the creative moment is gone.
Tom: But I was out, getting up in front of people and singing and, really for the first time, properly seeing the effect that my voice could have on a room full of people—noting how excited people and how that, in turn, excited me. I realized, with a new, even clearer urgency, how badly I wanted to do this and nothing else, as remote as the possibility of that still seemed. Let’s face it, the music business [in 1962] wasn’t exactly rushing to the valleys to sign up any Welsh pop group… The music business seemed to have plenty on its plate already. But you could dream, couldn’t you?
Both Yanni and Tom detail the long, arduous and sometimes dangerous trip to ‘overnight’ success from an upbringing of poverty. Both had loving and supportive parents, but the reality was, that their success was a steady roller-coaster of highs and lows and the only person who created the opportunities that brought them critical acclaim, was themselves. Both men had the unshakeable belief they were the best at their craft, and if only the right venue opened up, they would prove it to the world. This dogged ethic allowed them to fight and claw their way until the vision they saw as their due came to fruition.
The second connection I found in their words, was the early—and often—sexual relations with thousands of women. For Yanni, he states his first time was in a local bordello next door to his school in Kalamata, Greece. He was thirteen and a half.
Tom was sixteen when he impregnated his fifteen-year old girlfriend—wife at eight months, and stayed married until she passed in 2016. Tom never comes out and states he had sex with groupies—other publications have said so—but numerous anecdotes certainly imply that was the case. Yanni writes that one-night stands were his preferred method until he met Linda Evans. It is no surprise that the music industry, along with sports and film, have always been synonymous with sex and drugs. Most seem to cite the relentless pressure and grind of the creative process, along with the pursuit by willing females determined for a taste of the bright lights.
Tom: Bam! I’m on the pavement under a pile of screaming girls—taken down with a pace and efficiency that a pack of rugby forwards would have been proud to pull off. The people making the commotion outside the pub window were making that noise for me, and I didn’t know it.
Yanni: When I was on the road other girls would invariably show up, willing to share themselves for the night in very creative ways. If you’re young and away from home for two or three weeks at a time, it’s hard to resist walking into temptation. Mostly I didn’t.
Tom: It happens for the first time on one of those nights in the Copa [in NYC] in 1969. I’m drenched with sweat. Just occasionally someone on a table near the stage will reach out with a white linen napkin for me. I’ll dab at my brow with it and then hand it back. Not this one woman, though. She stands, flips her dress up, steps out of her panties and hands them up to me.
What I do with the panties is, I dab my brow with them. And then I say, ‘You want to watch you don’t catch cold.’
Yanni: I just wanted to have fun and I was honest about it. ‘I’m not looking for a relationship, and I hope you’re not. I don’t owe you anything and you don’t owe me anything. If we do this, it’s what is for tonight. If it continues tomorrow, okay, but if it doesn’t, don’t come to me and say I’ve used you.’
Tom: There was sex in the [Vegas] shows, and there was sex around the shows. The air seemed to crackle with it.
Same thing at those big seventies tour dates. Best clothes. Perfume in the air. People getting revved up. A willingness to cut loose and let go. A general horniness in the crowd. The atmosphere alive with the possibility of sex—in a way that was definitely going to play out to the advantage of the band, the crew and beyond.
As somebody once said, I was the Pied Piper of pussy.
Yanni: I liked to choose my companions rather than the other way around.
The seduction had already taken place while she watched me play. She knew I liked her because I approached her, and most of the time she’d come with me. If I got turned down it didn’t make any difference because there were so many other possibilities. But I was never a pest; you could get rid of me easily.
There were more girls than any of us could possibly be with, sometimes five times as many as there were guys.
It was rock ‘n’ roll.
Tom: So I’ve got the singer-on-a-stage thing going for me, and then television comes along and adds a whole other layer. Never underestimate the extent to which people want to have sex with people who are on television.
I was going over as some kind of love god, and I was going over so strongly that occasionally I was even persuaded of it myself. The road will set temptations in front of you that are hard to resist.
Yanni: In each town I had a girlfriend or two. Not real girlfriends, just girls I knew. Or someone I’d just met. I didn’t mind having sex with a woman I’d known less than an hour. I was young, they looked good. Nothing else to do. Let’s have some fun. There was no judgment, and I never felt guilty. You’re just driving down the highway and you’re lonely; you meet someone who eases the boredom a little bit for the night. And the next day you get up and do it again.
Tom: I think he [Wyclef Jean] was wondering, what’s it like to be out and about with Tom Jones? What goes on? So the next time [late 2001] we were both in London, I took him to the Metropolitan Hotel in Park Lane, home of the Met Bar and Nobu and a regular stop-off for me. The place was crowded, as it often is, and we sat out in the foyer having drinks—
Pretty soon, a girl came over, and she wanted to introduce herself and say hello.
‘It’s very nice to meet you,’ I said.
And then, without further ado, right there at the table, she whipped up her dress and showed me the piercing on her clitoris.
‘Well, thank you very much for that,’ I said. And then she went away.
That was it. My legend with Wyclef was sealed. ‘Man, you go out with Tom Jones, girls show you their pussy!’ He told everybody he knew, meaning that my reputation preceded me, whenever I went with him.
In closing, I wanted to include a few more quotes about creativity from them both. And also a music video of Sir Tom Jones, at age 77, crushing the song ‘You Can Leave Your Hat On’ The Voice UK 2017′. In the end, what Kevin and Yanni and Tom have showed, is that creativity is simply a vision of what you want your life to be. It’s all up to you to get to work and create.
Tom: And through all of this, Ethan’s [Johns] message has essentially been simple and the same: just sing. And it might seem strange that a singer needs to hear that, but it’s a fact. Everyone who has had success is asking themselves: what’s my next success? What do I do next? It eats at you like that, until it’s actually eating into your voice.
Yanni: When I was younger I got in my own way by asking myself questions like, How long does a piece need to be? What kind of music should I write? The answer is to write what you like. The piece is going to be as long as it keeps you interested. If it bores you, cut it.
Society does everything it can to fill you with a distrust of yourself and others. We grow up in an environment where we’re laughed at or criticized for thinking that what we create could profoundly affect people and maybe make a difference in their lives—or be worth doing for nobody but ourselves.
Thank you for sharing your essay, LS! I’ve often wondered about creativity as it seems to come and go in my own life. At times, I can sit and write all day and at others, there is nothing I would rather do less. The same with my art work. Your essay has encouraged me to reflect more deeply on this topic. Thank you 🙂
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What I got out of this essay, or more properly—put into it, was the fact that creativity is based upon a need. If you need to write, or sing, or draw or invent; then the success or failure of the ensuing endeavor is entirely up to you. Desire + hard work = creativity.
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Love it…or should I say, lurv it 🙂
This is really interesting and I am going to come back to it and think about it a bit more. Like Nora, sometimes I can feel much more creative than others.
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Thanks, missy. I’m enjoying writing these Monday essays. They stretch my intellect.
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This was fascinating. I think you make an excellent point about the inherent need to create being the catalyst which focuses creativity. It’s certainly the case with me. I love my writing, and I love my artwork. In the last decade or so particularly, I’ve been fuelled with something tantamount to madness as a driving force behind a whirlwind of writing in manic spells that would last for months. But then other issues have become bound to it – submitting for pay, deadlines, writing to a remit – and they killed my creativity because they killed the feeling that I was writing for the love of doing so. So I reverted to my art for a while, but it proved only one thing to me: I couldn’t live without my writing. However much and however often I make it a tortuous process, I still know that this is what I need to do. It’s why I write for me and not a market, and why I self-publish: it takes away the forced external pressures of writing to form, and leaves me only with the desire to say what I need to. Creativity, need and catharsis can work very well with determination to be the best one can be.
We tend to think of creativity being reserved for big, bold ideas, when it’s the little steps that create things. I don’t have the burning desire to write, I enjoy it, I like making stories out of bits of words or pictures; but I don’t lose sleep if I don’t write, and books aren’t flapping around in my mind trying to get out. Reading these books and writing this essay, I’ve come to peace with my lack of driving ambition. I’ll write when and if I choose.
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Big, bold ideas can be the downfall to creativity sometimes. The ideas are so engulfing, that one feels the practice of creativity will never do the idea justice. Those little steps are to be enjoyed and never underrated.
As far as your work goes, I’m just glad that you ARE writing. I know I’ve said this before, but do it YOUR way, in your own time. I wholeheartedly support every one of your creative steps, whenever they progress.