The Creative Curse

an epic battle to make something new

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

Art: The battle begins.

I’m starting to realize that, throughout my life, I’ve struggled to be creative. Not because of some sort of mental block, but because I’m kind of, well ... afraid to be creative. Like many of you, the thought of doing something that exposes part of my inner self is terrifying. Throw in the unstructured, unpredictable nature of most creative efforts, and bam – I’m a bit of a nail-biting basket case. And it started a long time ago.

My first “official” art class was in sixth grade. And by “art class,” I mean I actually went to a separate, artsy classroom where an actual art teacher was waiting to teach me art, as opposed to opening my desk to pull out a box of crayons (which is also awesome, but different). I can’t remember what I took away from that class, other than how to lie to my school principal.

See, this was at a Catholic middle school and, for some reason I can’t now fathom, the boys and girls were separated for art class. So, for most of my preteen classmates (hopped up on hormones and brand new armpit hair), art class was an excuse to one-up each other in classic grade school debauchery. One time, it got so bad the entire class was sent to the principal’s office because – somehow – tempera paint got squirted all over the place ... possibly on the teacher. The principle lined us up and looked each of us in the eye, asking if we “threw paint.” I decided to see what happened if I just stared back and him and said, “No.” I soon found myself back in class.

I’m not saying I was innocent, but, technically, I didn’t “throw paint.” Anyway, at this age, for me, art class wasn’t about creating anything. It was about dealing with peer pressure and trying to be included – not an atmosphere conducive to self-expression. I sure as hell didn’t want to look like I enjoyed learning how do draw fruit, even though I really did.

The summer after that, I joined a friend for summer painting classes through Parks & Rec. This was one of my first experiences with art in a non-school setting – which made a huge difference. I really got into it. I even ended up giving a lot of my paintings to family members as Christmas gifts – which they cherish with breathless adoration to this very moment.