There is a strange thing about being creative, as your profile says that you are, which many people seem to misunderstand. There is a belief that being creative means a person goes into art, paints or draws, writes books, short stories or even whimsical poems and, perhaps, even leads a Bohemian lifestyle. Naturally, that last part is absolute rubbish, because anyone can lead such a lifestyle, but not everyone who does is creative, and many people who do not, are. Creativity comes in many different forms, and not all of them are visual, as in the arts. Creative thinking, to my mind, is something we should also recognise, providing it leads to a substantive and acceptable result for the common good. Creativity is also, for me at least, letter writing, which hardly anyone else would accept because of the limited scope, they claim, of a letter. It has no audience or, at the very least, a small, intimate audience of one, often, or two.
Letter writing is, however, very much a creative work, very much an art which needs to be practiced and learned, and which has a positive outcome in most cases. I’m not thinking of the standard business style of letter writing, although this is an art form in and of itself when you look at some of the creative ways business try to take away your heard-earned wages, more of the individual letters one person would write to another. Not necessarily people who know each other well, as family members or even lovers, but ordinary people who, like you, are embarking on the wonderful journey of getting to know people around the world, without actually meeting up, just through the power of the word, a pen and paper. Being able to write a letter which interests, intrigues, invites a response is creativity, especially in our modern times of quick technology and abbreviated messaging.
The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote in his Confessions
I am made unlike anyone I have ever met. I will even venture to say that I am like no one in the whole world
which might well seem obvious to you and me, but someone had to assert it first for such an idea to come into the public domain and have people even think about it, let alone discuss the ramifications. Creative thinking, initially, and then creative thought in the open to challenge. Which, as I am sure you appreciate, is what we do in our own way, each time we put pen to paper and take up the challenge of creating a new letter of news-, information-, gossip-ridden words and ideas: each one an individual creation according to our own ideas, experiences, our lives and loves. And he also writes:
… my terms rarely have the common meaning; it is always my heart that converses with you, and perhaps you will learn one day that it speaks not as others do.
As you can tell, this was an assertion made to one person, not in one of his works directed to the public, and we have an intimate view of how he writes, what influences him, what makes his writings so interesting, even enthralling, in the scope and depth for those outside his immediate circle of friends and confidants. That is, Rousseau as a letter writer, as a creative spirit who, with his published works, caused many a ripple to pass through society during the Enlightenment. Not that we, humble and ordinary as we are, will change much in society, but the conversations ordinary people have, one to another, can change lives all the same with our own creativity, with inspiration, with simple friendship.
I am a great proponent of reading, especially those books which challenge the normal, or take people back to see a different side, other aspects of lives, historical events, the world in general. And, even so, I often fall to the feeling that books have less to offer a person that the far more intimate art of writing letters to people, especially when they are in a different environment, on another continent, or live in a society that I, as the writer, have not yet experienced in any great depth. An author can write and create a picture for the general reader, but it is not individual. It is the authors take created for a mass market – at least, that is why all writers hope, as they have to live from these creations. A letter writer can write too, but opens themselves up to the possibility of a reply, of someone challenging them – in the better sense of the world – and asking questions. The letter writer, unlike with the creative work of an author, is active after the creation of their work. Of course, you could argue that the author challenges the thinking of a letter writer and gives them topics to write about, furthers the discussion on a new level through their works, and that would be true too; perhaps they complement one another. You write, however:
I love to meet people that stimulate my mind. I look forward to hearing from you, and challenging your mind as well.
This is not an invitation to open a book, but to put pen to paper and see whether a few thoughts, in this case on creativity based upon the description in your profile, are enough to challenge and cause a reply. It is the kind of invitation which causes me to think, to seek out those appropriate thoughts which can be put down on paper, and then to take up the challenge.
Our lives have taken different paths, although you do have the advantage over me, in that you can still form your future and make a great deal of the time you have before you. I have the advantage that I can look back over many years of travelling, of reading and writing, of exploration, learning and the gathering of experiences, and still form something of a future for the next years, based upon what I have seen and learned, and that which I still wish to do. Not exactly a bucket list, since I dislike putting a limit on things, more of a challenge to myself to take whatever time there still is, and use it to the fullest extent. At the same time, I am challenging everything that I already know – or, at least, that which was taught me in my formative years – to break the bonds of bias and non-critical thinking and discover a real world full of intriguing things, rather than intrigue, of excitement, rather than incitement, of pleasure. It is working, I hasten to add, and thus this letter almost as proof positive; I have seen so many people desperately seeking someone to write to, and then they add that simple line: No Prisoners. And with those two words – or a few more in some cases – they cut out a fascinating portion of society who really do have stories to tell and who, despite their position and environment, have thoughts and ideas just the same as we, on the outside, do. An untapped source, you might say, for inspiration.
In a world that claims the non-existence of the mind, the moral righteousness of rule by brute force, the penalizing in favour the competent of the incompetent, the sacrifice of the best to the worst – in such a world the best have to turn against society and have to become its deadliest enemies.
Not everyone agrees with Ayn Rand, but I do think that much of what she said and wrote can be brought in as an example of the direction our society is going, especially in the treatment of people outside the hierarchy or positions of power who have the audacity to think. Not that I am suggesting insurrection, riots, or the over-throwing of justice and government, but a quieter revolution, if you will, between minds prepared to think, people prepared to listen as much as talk, people who can contemplate and discuss. And if letter writing isn’t one of the finest sources for such a movement, then I don’t know what is.
We are, you and I, caught, though, with a slight problem. Neither one of us knows anything about the other, so writing is more than taking a chance. It is a safe chance, of course, as we are so far away from one another there can be no physical threat, but a chance nonetheless. Do we, as adults with differing experiences, outlooks on life, social bonds, have anything in common worth discussing, worth putting down on paper, worth sacrificing the time to communicate? Creativity, in letter writing and making lasting friendships, is not about constructing your work to fit the ideals of another person, or even, necessarily, the ideals of a portion of society. Creativity is putting a part of yourself out there – in public or in private – and letting it inspire others, letting it challenge another person, in the case of letter writing to just one correspondent, to think and respond. We put something of ourselves down on paper, but cannot expect the other person, the recipient of our words, to be on exactly the same level of thinking, or hold exactly the same interests. What we can hope for is a person who is receptive to our platonic advances, and prepared to put their thoughts and experiences out there, even if they do not match, are on a different level, go in a completely different direction to that of the original. Letter writing is about sharing self, not adapting to other. And while there is the possibility of paths crossing, that is not really the aim of the whole exercise.
I, for example, cannot expect you to have read Ayn Rand, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Marcus Tullius Cicero or any of the other philosophers, historians, recorders and influencers of past times. I can, however, share my thoughts and experiences based on what I have discovered in them. You, with your own life experiences and interests, will have discovered and coveted things which have been outside my scope, my vision of life so far and, hopefully, share them with me. The compatibility comes from the ability not just to talk, but also to listen, and in everything that is said, there is a grain which proves of interest to the listener, which inspires them, and pushes them in new directions. The discussion, the advancement, comes from this small grain – as an oak grows from an acorn.
My three main interests are letter writing, reading and collecting antique photographs. I was a late starter, in every aspect, and had to be forced to take up the pen, as much as to put down a book and do what my parents, my teachers demanded of me. I disliked and fought against the rules of society, where I conceived that they were of no merit, from a very early age, both in London, the city of my birth, and elsewhere during my travels. In Venice I slept on the main railway station concourse, in London under bridges, in Paris in covered car parks, in Belize I lived in the former slave quarters, where whites feared to tread. I spent my childhood exploring the streets of London, the lines of books in public libraries, the hills, valleys and pathways of the capital. Later I escaped the confines of the city and made my way across the mountains and through the valleys of other cities, counties, through villages and towns hardly even worth a notation on the map. I came of age, at fourteen, in Paris where, unbeknown to those who had power over my life, I had slipped away to explore, when I should have been walking through the valleys in Wales. At sixteen I was working, at seventeen I left school. In my early twenties I began writing letters.
Do we have anything in common which would entice you to reply to this letter? Personally I think that is the wrong question, but it is one which most people would form in their minds as they read my words; always supposing that they do. The question should be: do you have anything which you believe would enrich my view on life. Do you have anything which will cause me to pause and think, which will activate my own creative juices? Clearly, the answer to both these questions can only be a resounding Yes, because we have lived lives neither one of us has experienced. But there is a third question, which many people do not quite get to, since they have already made up their minds with that first, discarded query: am I, as a letter writer, brave enough to reply?
And we form this question simply because no one knows what will happen in the future, what a reply will bring, whether we will be inspired further, whether we will have the courage to discuss those things which, otherwise, remain hidden in our minds. Whether we will take up a challenge which could, possibly, open up new horizons. Are we brave enough to open a new door and step into a still darkened room full of unseen possibilities?