Why There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be Creative

Prague Astronomical Clock

If you could choose any place and time in history in which to live and realise your creative ambitions, which would you pick?

A few years ago, if you’d asked me that question, as a poet, I’d have been spoilt for choice.

Ancient Ireland would be hard to beat. The Celts really knew how to treat a poet. The role of Bard was a respected position, as an official of the court and the guardian of the tribe’s history and tradition.

Poets’ satires were said to be so potent they could raise boils on the faces of their victims. They rode their chariots into battle, singing and playing the harp to encourage their troops – and protected by their magical aura, as it was bad luck to kill a poet.

Or how about Elizabethan England? The world was expanding – Europeans were sailing off to ‘discover’ far-flung lands, full of optimism and daring. And the English language was exploding – thousands of new words were added to the vocabulary, from classical and foreign languages, as well as the inventiveness of speakers and writers.

Exotic new verse forms were being imported from the continent, adapted and refitted for purpose – just as we did with American rock ‘n’ roll four centuries later. And poets were rock stars – verse drama was all the rage, which made it big business. Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Dekker and others saw their works play to packed houses every week.

In retrospect, it’s hardly surprising that this cultural and commercial melting-pot produced the greatest poet – dammit, the greatest writer – the English language has ever seen. And not satisfied with being a towering artistic genius, Shakespeare was also a highly successful entrepreneur.

But let’s not forget the Romantic Age. Revolution was in the air and poets were shaking off the shackles of the terminally dull Augustan period, and drawing inspiration from all kinds of sources – natural, supernatural, sexual, political and chemical.

Yes, like 20th-century rock stars, they had a habit of dying young or living too long and disappointing their fan base, but they left a hell of a back catalogue.

And there was still money in poetry in those days. Byron’s The Corsair sold ten thousand copies on the first day of publication. So John Keats wasn’t completely mad to turn his back on a lucrative career as a doctor and strike out as a freelance poet. He didn’t live to enjoy the fruits of his success, but history has been kinder to him than tuberculosis.

Or how about Modernist-era London? Once again, social revolutions were accompanied by a poetic revolution. What Picasso and Matisse did to the realist tradition in painting, Eliot and Pound did to the sedate conventions of Victorian poetry, “break[ing] the pentameter” and uncorking the genie of free verse. Poetry has never been the same since.

Whatever your creative field, you can probably reel off a similar list of Golden Ages of artistic and cultural achievement – maybe Renaissance Florence, Vienna at the turn of the 19th century, or Memphis in the fifties.

But these days, I’m coming round to the idea that of all the times and places I could have lived, as a writer and creative entrepreneur, right here and right now would be my number one choice.

Once again, social and cultural revolutions are in the air.

One by one, the internet is smashing old industries to smithereens. First the music industry yelped in protest, then the movie industry. Now publishers are the ones wailing and gnashing their teeth.

And you know what? Some of us are licking our lips.

Some of us are looking at a once-in-a-lifetime, once in-a-century, maybe even once-in-a-millennium chance to tear up the old rules and find new ways of creating, publishing, connecting and doing business.

Instead of working for the Man or going cap in hand to gatekeepers, we can build our own platform and find our own audience. And if we want the full ‘rock star’ experience, it’s a lot less effort to toss an iPad out the window than a TV. πŸ˜‰

Yes, we’re also experiencing a once-in-a-century financial meltdown. But that only makes it even more urgent to find new ways of doing things.

Now, you may agree or disagree with me about the merits of the 21st-century versus your favourite period from history (or Utopia from the future) but that’s academic.

Whatever your personal preferences, there has never been, and never will be a better time to be creative than here and now.

Because now is the only time we have.

You and I have today, and the chance to create.

We can waste it on busywork, or harking back to the Golden Age, or daydreaming about the future.

Or we can apply ourselves to tackling our next big creative challenge…

…and take one small step down a path that could lead to something amazing.

What (and when) do you think?

If you could choose any time or place to live and realise your creative ambitions, when and where would you pick?

What are you going to create today?

I’ll shortly be opening the doors to a new group of students for The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap – an in-depth course that will show you how to take full advantage of the opportunities facing creative people in the 21st-century.

If you’d like to be first in line when the doors open – and to read the multimedia Guide to Creative Entrepreneurship that introduces the course – you can sign up here.

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Responses to this Post

Comments

  1. I was waiting for what you finally said. Now is our time and our chance.

    Let’s take it!

  2. Amen.

  3. Well done, Mark (particularly in view of Ancient Ireland…). And I agree, of course. These are exciting times. Combining poetry with music or animation, for example, to break out of old categories and create new forms of expression is at our fingertips. And you needn’t suck up to the Queen or Pope to be acknowledged πŸ™‚ A free blog could do the trick. Whoooohoooo!!!

  4. Thanks Mark, Once again you’ve given me a welcome kick-start to my day in the studio with deadlines looming. Your words always speak to me…and today your advice about not wasting our time on busywork, harking back to the past, or daydreaming about the future hit home. I’m guilty of all three at times! You’re so right…the time is now to apply myself to my next big creative challenge.

  5. Is future history ok? I’d like to live in Manticore, in Honor Harrington’s time.

    • Of course. (Says he after swiftly Googling ‘Honor Harrington’…) What’s the appeal of 3961 AD? πŸ™‚

      • Part of the appeal is certainly that it is a future that rewards artists and writers, under a government that has a nice balance between freedom and responsibility. I admit I am a sucker for science fiction… My other ‘great times to live’ would include the Star Trek universe, the Mars of June 2508, and the Alliance-Union universe created by C.J. Cherryh.

        • Sounds like a hospitable environment for creatives, I’ll have to check it out… My own favourite sci-fi tends to be from writers like John Wyndham or John Christopher – post-human scenarios where the characters are picking their way through the remains of Paris or London, gives a very different perspective on modern life.

  6. Late 14th century (Ricardian) England: Chaucer; Langland; Gower; and the Gawain poet.

  7. Mark, this reminds me of Woody Allen’s recent film, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. The main character finds a portal back to 1920s Paris, where he encounters Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and the others from Hemingway’s A MOVEABLE FEAST. The movie poses the same question that you do in this blog post, and ultimately arrives at the same conclusion: NOW is the best time to be creative.

    • Wow. I’ve unconsciously plagiarised Woody Allen! I’m tempted to say ‘great minds…’ but modesty forbids. πŸ˜‰

      Will definitely have to check out the film, thanks for putting me onto it.

  8. If I could choose any time or place to live and realise your creative ambitions, when and where would you pick?

    It would have to be the future – when I HAD realized my dreams, and lived my Destiny.

    • That’s a very effective motivational technique – imagining your desired future, then keeping it in mind as you move forward. Although of course it’s still necessary to join the dots by doing the difficult stuff along the way…

  9. I absolutely adore the Renaissance period of time…I wrote an 84k word novel about a travelling minstrel who played the lute in 1318!

    Due to being very involved in my historic town’s heritage association I am partial to the 1800s/turn of the century as well. So I would say it’s a tie between the Renaissance and the Romantic/Antebellum periods. I would have more time to write/paint in the latter but in the former, the struggle would be well worth it.

    Thank you so much, Mark, from the bottom of my heart for posting these!

    – s

  10. After watching the movie “Midnight in Paris,” I decided that it was THAT era (1920’s in Paris) that would by my choice as the “Golden Age” of literature/writing. However, one of the main themes in the movie is exactly that… when the beautiful creative from the Parisian 1920’s was thrust back in time to the previous “Golden Age,” she chose to stay there instead, thus making the point that the Golden Age is whenever/wherever you make it. So, like you, Mark, I’m choosing to make here and now MY golden age of creating/writing.

    • Yep, however far back you go, there’s always room for a little more nostalgia. πŸ™‚

      Even if you look at really old writings, like the Greek/Indian myths or the Old Testament, you’ll find people harking back to the good old days when people were taller, brighter, more beautiful, noble etc.

  11. For me its always ancient (and not-so-ancient) Japan when the artists where truly respected and it also brought together 3 things painting, poetry and calligraphy- my 3 passions. They also recognised that art had a spiritual dimension – truly enlightening stuff and still relevant today!
    Love your posts Mark! Thank you. From a novice.

  12. This is a great piece. I loved your little twist in the end – I was expecting an ode to the internet and self-publishing but “because now is the only time we have” is the absolute best answer.

    I agree that ‘right now’ is the perfect time to create, but I’d also add ‘right here’ to my description. My freedom to express myself is protected by the laws of my country (South Africa) and there are plenty of places in the world where that isn’t the case. There are plenty of examples in your work and in the comments of societies that revered artists – but I’m not picky. I just want to create without fear of censorship and persecution. Maybe it’s my mother’s stories of being an artist in Soviet Russia that give me that perspective.

    Even though my society sees me as a hopeless dreamer or a pretentious hipster, so be it. I just appreciate that I have the freedom to do what I want to do.