Creating the Creative Adult



Creating the Creative Adult, Cait Zellers 2014


So I’ve been hearing this saying/cliche/bad-typography-on-a-landscape a lot lately: 

The creative adult is the child that survived.” 

And I’ve been trying to figure out how I feel about this notion. This very, very vague notion, but a notion nonetheless. I’ve been sitting on it for a while, seeing it pop up on my Pinterest feed again and again, but I wasn’t doing much about it other than making a weird face and going ‘nnnnnnm.’ 

Then on Wednesday, I had a really, really crappy day. Not one of those days where everything goes wrong, one of those days when you wake up and nothing is right and everything you look at either makes you want to cry or hit something and you have to get up and go to work anyway and the entire day last about five thousand years and you’re simply and utterly miserable. It happens to me every once and while. I think it has something to do with not getting enough vitamin d. And maybe my clinical depression. 

One of the things that was really, really frustrating me on Wednesday had to do with my boyfriend and I not being on the same kind of life-schedule. (I have no idea what a better term for that would be-suggestions are welcome.) Basically, I work eight hours a day, five days a week, in a boring office job with no one to talk to and nothing to do, while he works part-time retail, running his ass off and talking non-stop, and then pedicabs on the weekends, where he bikes his ass off and talks non-stop. So basically, weekends are shot of us except for Sundays, he can stay up late and I have to be in bed early, he always has energy when I’m frustrated and exhausted, and I always want to talk and be active when all he wants to do is shut up and sit still. Most of the time we make it work okay, but sometimes, it makes me upset. The Tuesday before this particular Wednesday was one of those occasions, and I was set to brood about it aaaaaall morning long. I texted my sister so I could have someone to bitch at, and this was her reply: 

“You live in the adult world and he doesn’t. End of story.” 

And I’ll admit, my first (indignant, selfish) reaction was to go “Yeah! He’s a damn child because he doesn’t work on the same schedule as the rest of us and he should grow the fuck up!” And I let myself be self-righteous and sniffly about it for a good half-hour. But that phrase kept creeping back into my head. The creative adult is the child that survived. AndI began to wonder what living this ‘adult’ life I’d found myself in was doing to my inspiration and creativity levels. I am, by most measurable means, an adult. I live on my own, pay my own bills, cook my own food, have my own health insurance, all that jazz. I also wear mis-matched socks, don’t make my bed, and watching cartoons like a fiend. But I’m an adult. And let me be one of the many I am sure will tell you- adulthood is usually boring and ugly. And apparently, it makes you depressed and judgmental.

So, if the creative adult is the child that survives all that bullshit, how does it work? Does it mean you just keep your wide-eyed innocence and sense of wonder while you push papers around your windowless office space? I can tell you from experience, it doesn’t work. And as much as I don’t want to see all my creative dreams crushed under the weight of the ‘adult world’, I can’t live like a kid anymore either. I have responsibilities to myself and to those around me and I refuse to be a burden on anyone.  So where is the happy medium? And how do you get to it? 

I think for me, the answer is this: dedication to inspiration. I don’t want to be stuck doing nine to five my entire life. I want to be able to create for a living, make my own hours, have the means to support myself and have the time and the energy to enjoy my life. I don’t want to be a slacker but I don’t want to be a slave to someone else’s perceptions. So the solution I’ve come up with is to work as hard as I can at the things that I love. I’m going to put everything I have to into getting more comics and paintings and illustrations and designs out in the world- I’m going to make a name for myself doing good work for good people, and everything else is just a side-gig. I’m going to live in the ‘adult world’ as little as humanly possibly because it’s a trap meant to suck the life out of you. Maybe the child-like part of the Creative Adult is the part that makes the rules up as you go and changes them when you’re not having fun any more. 

I’m creating myself as my own kind of Creative Adult. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.