Like the rest of the world, I’ve been captivated this past week by Susan Boyle, the seemingly ordinary middle-aged woman who appears to be extraordinarily talented. I’m one of those who got goose bumps when I heard her sing. It helps that I’m a big fan of Les Miz in general and the song she sang, “I Dreamed A Dream,” in particular. But I suspect I would have been captivated no matter what she sang, not only because of the emotional depth of her singing, but because it’s difficult to ignore all the media gaga that’s going on.
I’m fascinated by the media fawning over Susan Boyle. To me it looks like they’re purely amazed that an everyday sort of person could be immensely gifted.
They’re falling all over themselves to get a few minutes of her time, but when they do they don’t quite know what to make of her. Clearly, she’s not like one of them, polished and practiced at the art of promoting herself. And of course she doesn’t look anything like the normal celebrity, so she’s pegged as a rare bird the likes of which we’ll probably never see again.
Well, I’ve got news for them: there are legions of Susan Boyles out there, ordinary but extremely talented women and men who live their lives in relative obscurity.
They’re novelists and poets and playwrights. Violinists, guitarists, pianists. Dancers, actors, singers, choreographers. Photographers and painters. Inventors, chefs, and sculptors. Knitters, scrapbookers, jewelry makers.
I know this because they routinely walk through my door.
Imagine, for a second, what this means. If, mostly by chance, I’ve encountered this many artistically creative people just in my small world, then there must be zillions more out there in the big, wide world. Maybe it even means that everyone is born an artist.
Certainly, most children intuitively grasp this truth. Ask a group of five-year-olds how many of them consider themselves artists, and they’ll all raise their hands. But something unfortunate may happen to them along the way. Fast-forward twenty years into the future and ask the same question of the adults those kids have become, and at most one or two will raise their hands.
Somehow they’ve learned to devalue and diminish their artistic abilities.
Perhaps their gifts were never acknowledged. Or they were advised that they were impractical. Possibly they were compared to others and told they didn’t measure up. Whatever the case, at best they decided that their creative endeavors were no big deal; at worst they decided to lock them away.
And so, when these talented people walk through my door I often hear them minimize their creativity.
Sometimes they don’t even reveal this part of themselves to me until we’ve had a few sessions. When I ask them why, they say things like, “I used to do that, but it’s not realistic” or “It’s nothing special, I’m not a real artist” or “What’s the point? I can’t make money at it” or “I wish I could do more of it, but I just don’t have time.”
Within those brief words I hear a mountain of disavowed sadness and regret.
So Susan Boyle is one of the fortunate ones. And I don’t mean just because she’s been discovered.
What I mean is Susan Boyle is truly fortunate because she didn’t diminish her talent.
Quite the opposite, it’s clear that she made time for it. She nurtured it and practiced it and shared it with other people. She found a way to keep her creative fire alive, despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
Contrary to what the song says, she did not let life kill the dream she dreamed.
In fact, I believe, at its core, the dream was about the joy of using her gifts: simply singing for the joy of singing. That’s the heart of true artistry. The rest of it is icing on the cake.
Which, when you dig beneath the surface, is the real inspirational takeaway from all the hype.
The important headline isn’t, “ORDINARY SCOTSWOMAN HAS TALENT!” but rather “ORDINARY SCOTSWOMAN JOYOUSLY KEPT PLUGGING AWAY AT HER TALENT!”
And that’s good news for all of us who have ever devalued or forsaken our creative gifts.
Because it’s not too late to stoke those coals.
Believe me, there’s lots of heat left in them. They will enrich your life immeasurably, and who cares if you’re never discovered like Susan Boyle?
Furthermore, if you feel stuck right now, personally or professionally, you may be amazed by what an act of creativity (or two or three) will unveil within you. Without a doubt, it will open a conduit to your deeper wisdom, callings, and sense of purpose. It will most definitely help you begin to get unstuck.
So why not start now?
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