Trauma and Creativity

I’m not sure what made me a writer.

Part of it may be in the genes.  One close relative was a writer, but he wasn’t sure where he got the talent or the basic inclination.  Most of my blood relatives weren’t even readers, and they didn’t venture into other creative things.

There were exceptions.  Some of the women developed traditional female interests, such as sewing, embroidery and crocheting.  They made beautiful things, and any knee-jerk feminist reaction to that would be a mistake.  Those women were artists, in spite of the fact that their art was expected of them.

One female ancestor who was widowed circa 1910 supported herself and two small children — just barely — by taking in other people’s laundry and mending clothes.  However, she also did embroidery for a fee, and was able to make a small amount of money with her penmanship skills.  Her artistic talent helped to compensate for the fact that she was forced into work that could have driven her nuts with boredom, and it also paid for a few more groceries.

I can think of two male relatives whose creative interests were traditionally masculine.  One was an upholsterer who was fortunate to turn his interest into a lucrative career.  He had his own business, which allowed him to set high standards because he worked directly with clients and consultants.  So, he warded off the You’ll Love it at Levitz bullshit.

The other worked on an auto assembly line, but in his spare time he made furniture and other items using wood and a special piece of equipment he kept in his garage.

George Michael said he was the only musician in his family.  However, his mother and sisters were highly skilled in detailed garment work, and they made some of his early costumes (They had to sew on a truckload of beads for one of those Wham! shirts).  Aside from that, I’m not sure if he was on record commenting on other artists in his family.

This brief excerpt from a conversation with Michael Parkinson (link below) is thought-provoking.  We know that physical and emotional turmoil affect a person’s future, and here’s something to consider: head trauma can dramatically change the course of someone’s life, but not always in ways we expect.

The accident discussed in this YouTube clip could have been fatal or permanently debilitating.  The outcome was a lot more fortunate, even if it did mess with one of his existing skills.

Note that Mr. Michael alluded to a common mistake in parenting: the violin was the first instrument he attempted to learn, and when it became clear it wasn’t right for him his parents wouldn’t let him give it up.  They were probably trying to teach him a sense of commitment, but the result was a frustrating waste of time.  Although GM emerged from the violin tedium very well, parents should be aware that a child with musical talent must be allowed to learn through experience which instruments and genres he or she is best suited for.

I understand that when Mr. Michael was in his late teens, he and a close friend, musician David Austin, were busking (performing for passersby and accepting cash) in the London Underground without their parents’ knowledge.  They developed their pop music ability that way, which must have helped to offset GM’s frustrating afternoons with the violin.

Children and teenagers take real risks defying their parents, and given the average kid’s judgment the results are sometimes disastrous.  However, I have mostly positive memories of doing things my parents told me not to do, and I also remember an astute psychotherapist encouraging me to do some of it.  He stuck his neck out when he told me I’d have to ignore some of the family rules if I wanted to adjust to adulthood, and I’m glad he had that courage.  I’m also grateful he assured me my judgment was better than most kids’.  That really helped with my self-esteem.  Additionally, his confidence in me may have made him feel more comfortable encouraging me to defy adult authority.

But I digress.  Here’s the video with the reference to head trauma.  Running time is under four minutes:



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