Charles Johnson on creativity and self-liberation

Charles Johnson Quotation

“I think we liberate ourselves through creating.” ~ Charles Johnson

Last week my husband and I took Amtrak’s Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago to spend a day at the Newberry Library.

On the first part of the journey, I read an interview with author Charles Johnson, whose novel Middle Passage won the 1990 National Book Award for Fiction (“Charles Johnson Reflects on His National Book Award-Winning Novel and More,” by Robin Lindley, Writer’s Chronicle, February 2017). I had thrown the magazine in my tote bag and flipped to the first article, not knowing it would be just what I needed, when I needed it.

For the rest of the train ride, I looked out the window, occasionally taking video with my phone, and thought about creativity.

How some people seem born to be creative.

How creativity is in their bones, in their breath, in their soul.

How easily a creative calling gets confused with public acclaim and success.

How we hesitate to admit the creative vocation, even to ourselves, especially if we don’t have creative products deemed worthy of a life of creativity.

How Viktor Frankl wrote that creating a work is one way to discovery meaning.

How living a creative life is about, most of all, openness to all of life’s experience.

How by not accepting a creative life nor actively exposing ourselves to creativity in its many forms on a regular basis, even—and perhaps especially—when life feels upside down and sideways, we betray our very selves.

“If you love creativity, then your work naturally makes you learn about other creations and how other people have done it. So you want to expose yourself to as much art as possible: black, white; east, west; past, present. You expose yourself to all kinds of art and you learn—and grow constantly in your craft—because you’ve seen all of these creations that are our human inheritance.” ~ Charles Johnson

“Solving a problem by depicting it visually or in a story is how I live my entire life today. I can’t imagine living a life in which my mind is not engaged in creative problem solving.” ~ Charles Johnson

See also

2 thoughts on “Charles Johnson on creativity and self-liberation

    • Thanks so much, Marianne. What is it about train travel that gets my creative juices flowing? As I get older, I find that the challenge is sustaining that motivation and impulse through the initial work of creation (which wasn’t a problem when I was younger). Maybe I just need to hop on a train every day. 🙂

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: