Nurturing Creativity

Although 2013 is only 17 days in, it is already pretty clear to me that “readiness” is one of the major lessons I am supposed to learn this year.  I have been talking for years about nurturing my creative side.  Singing and creative writing are two of my favorite things.  Unfortunately, as is often the case, I was unable to figure out how to turn these loves into a stable career.  As a result, I placed most of my efforts on building up my career as an academic.  Of course, God has decided that it is time for me to spend more time nurturing my creative side.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend as we were preparing for a coming concert performance.  We both had always been the kind of guys who were credited with having potential.  However, at this point in our lives, we’ve primarily been proficient at being perpetual students and accumulating intimidating amounts of student loan debt.  In the middle of our conversation, I said the following:

“People normally rely in their day jobs in order to support their creative careers, but it seems like I’m relying on my creative career in order to support my day job.”

It was true.  After all, my expected salary after my PhD program is a lot lower than I would like it to be–especially considering how much of it will have to go to student loan payments. The bottom line is that some amazing creative opportunity would have to come my way in order for me not to feel as if I have mortgaged off my future for an academic career that may or may not pay off.  Indeed, gaining a substantial following through my blog, having amazing sales for my mixtape, getting a record deal, or getting a publishing deal for my novel or inspired by my blog does not seem any less possible than reaching any of my more traditional academic goals like landing a tenure-track position or writing a non-fiction New York Times best seller like Malcolm Gladwell or Cornell West.  Everything is far-fetched so I might as well reach high.

Nonetheless, I had to acknowledge that things weren’t all bad.  I have a few papers lined up for conference presentations this year and my gerrymandering research has the potential to be pretty influential given the tense political climate in the House.  I just wished that I was a bit less dependent on student loans.  At my age, I never thought my finances would still be this tight, but I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

While my financial situation hasn’t changed, a few things have happened to let me know that change is on the way.  First, I attended an open mic a few weeks ago where  I had no desire to perform and ended up performing at the request of a pastor who was in attendance. I had to ad lib on the phrase “I was created in the Imago Dei (image of God)” behind two singers who had already showcased their ability in a big way during the event.  Normally, I would have panicked, but I went along with it and ended up doing much better than anticipated.  I guess all that singing in the car all these years paid off.

Last Saturday was consumed by rehearsals dedicated to my coming concert.  The first rehearsal was meant to be for all the artists to get to know the band, but I was the only one who showed up.  I didn’t mind since I ended up using the whole time to make sure the band had a good understanding of my arrangements.  Things went so well that I went from being incredibly stressed out about the concert to being calm in spite of the fact that I was dealing with a cold of some sort.  It was clear to me that I was doing exactly what I had been created to do.

Last Sunday I drove to Long Island to see one of my frat brothers preach.  While I was out there, he also put me on the spot and asked me if I would mind singing right before his sermon.  This was ironic for two reasons: 1. I was sick so I barely made it to the service, 2. I had literally just finished telling my other frat brother during the drive that I was certain that there was no way I would have to sing during that service.  I guess I was wrong about that, but I was still able to get through the old hymn I chose in spite of my cold-induced hoarseness.  Thankfully, God moved and the congregation was supportive.

It’s a good thing that I felt the supportiveness of the weekend because I found out yesterday that I lost one of my main sources of side income.  Surprisingly, it didn’t faze me.  I’m just ready to see what’s happening next.  In the mean time, I’ll keep doing what generations of resourceful black men have done before me and make the best out of this seemingly bad situation.  At least I have time to finish some of the projects that I have already started.  I’ll just spend my extra time preparing so that I will be ready for whatever new opportunities are about to come my way.

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About Spencer

Spencer T. Clayton is a typical millennial who believed his mother when she told him that he was capable of accomplishing great things (and as a result has amassed a large amount of student loan debt). When he isn’t blogging, he is either out with friends, writing and performing music, or busy working as an Executive Pastor and Consultant while simultaneously pursuing a PhD in Public Affairs.

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