The Trials Of Living With a Creative

They never ask how your day's been, they think all their work is shit, and they forget to pay the bills, but living with a creative can be as brilliant as it is frustrating.
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They never ask how your day's been, they think all their work is shit, and they forget to pay the bills, but living with a creative can be as brilliant as it is frustrating.

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Cre-a-tive Noun:

Someone who does something creative for a living, likely to work from home.  Distinguished by an inability to complete mundane tasks effectively unsupervised, refusal to recognise their own unworldly creative genius and are often surrounded by a large collection of used mugs.

The term Creative is used collectively here to include all those people who make something for a living, although it is not restricted to just those that receive an income from it.  The something they make may be music, photography, films, oil paintings, wicker baskets, or cross-stitch scale models of thatched Tudor houses; the trade can be many and any. What is similar though are the experiences of Creatives’ partners.

The first step towards understanding a Creative is accepting that you will never understand them.  They’re an enigma of highs and lows, illuminating positivity and then falling fiercely into spells of troubled despondency.  They’ll feel guilty for not working as much as they can, yet in reality have little spare time to even eat properly.  They will imagine the most obscure and beautiful ideas and then make them materialise with unintelligible talent, yet completely lack all the skill it takes to pay the water bill.  The most understanding thing you can do for a Creative is to admit that you don’t understand them, but you think they’re fucking great because of it.

One of the things about a Creative you will not understand is how, while they are working, they’re certain that their work is shit. While you look at something as out of this world as the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling or shed a tear to words as stirring as Cohen’s Hallelujah, the Creative will see mistakes, stupidity, misery and despair.  This is not a tactic to make you reassure them that they’re great like when skinny people ask you if they look fat. When they say it’s crap they genuinely believe it to be so and this unmerciful self-criticism is a common trait throughout Creatives.  During the making process you will be completely unable to convince or reassure a Creative that their rough draft is better than anything you could complete in a lifetime.  They will dismiss this and they will refuse to be consoled or cheered up. You may even be a little hurt by the implication that your own level of creativity does not act as valid means of measurement for their own.  However they do not mean to offend you and this you should understand.  It’s nothing personal, it’s just that they see each project as a completely isolated phenomenon that cannot be compared to any other experiences, even their own.

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As they create, the escalating shitness of things will not be limited to just their work but will include all things and people that dare enter their work space. This might be the tools they use, an inadequate biscuit, their socks or the lack or excess of sun/rain/breeze/postmen.  This irrationality can be hard to humour, especially for someone like me who tips the opposite end of the rationality scale like a pragmatic cyborg.  Their irrationality during these times should not be misunderstood for negativity. Creatives are not negative people. It’s just that all their energy and focus has been employed by whatever project they’re working on at the time and there is no surplus strength or headspace left for logic.  The level of their dedication is as incredible as what they create.

Living with a Creative definitely gives opportunity for some interesting surprises.  During a four month period of particularly demanding work my Creative insisted on darkness.  I came home one day and found that the window had been blocked out.  Over these few months haunting and often quite apocalyptic film scores played around the house.  All of the time.  I started to crave extremely happy things like Disney and kaleidoscopes.  I experienced withdrawal symptoms from colour and welled up whenever someone mentioned Spring.  There was a particularly intense moment when I got home from work to a very sullen Creative who, after a nightmare about a man helplessly watching everything in his life get destroyed, spent a whole day creating this vision.  It was made even more poignant by there not being the right type of bread in the cupboard for lunch.  Just another day at the office.

Those particular environmental changes were only specific to that piece of work and since then we have had many other habitats created, so far luckily none of which have required developing bat like senses to compensate for lack of sight again.  The metaphorical light and shade many Creatives go through seems to be an integral part to the whole process and the end result, every time, is worth so much more than the course it takes to get there.  It may not be for everyone, but I think it’s worth the wait.

The hardest thing about living with a Creative is understanding that the very thing that makes you want to push them out of the window is also the reason why you still haven’t.  While they’re working they have no interest in how your day has been, yet you’re inspired by their unmovable commitment.  Conversations without them interrupting even themselves with a remark about their work will be scarce, yet you love the limitless of their imagination and being part of the process.  Their over-thinking and perfectionism can be infuriating and still you’re impressed by their ambition to always do better.  Their creativeness pulls you towards them and makes you feel like you’re running in circles at the same time.  And though you may not be sure why, you can be certain that there’s no one else you’d rather live with, and how you live with them is something they will never understand.