Sean O’Casey once remarked that, “you must never separate yourself from life if you one day hope to write a play.” For artists, their subject matter and muse, has always been life itself. The best way to research their muse was simply by living. However, for 21st century artists, it’s all too easy to switch out of reality for a while, to put headphones on and escape. For most of us, morning commutes are filled with Spotify, podcasts and scrolling, which do very little to get the creative juices flowing. But, for artists, their role is to comment on life, engage with what is happening around them, and from that experience and create their art. Is it possible to interpret life around us artistically, if we are constantly shutting that life out with white noise?
If we don’t want to be completely lost in a social media fueled world of white noise, we must harness the constant stimulation and make it somewhat productive. We all know that the internet can be a great resource for enriching the mind, so can we switch out the white noise for something that benefits our learning? What if, instead of scrolling on the bus to work, we listened to an interview with a writer or a podcast about current affairs? For those interested in art and design, the likes of Instagram can be a source of inspiration, but when our artistic inspiration is mixed in with Kardashians and memes, it’s very hard not to fall down a rabbit hole. Thus, it’s possible to use the internet to learn about the world around us and then use that information to fuel our creativity. However, in my opinion, that type of learning is false. We are, after all, receiving it second-hand through a screen, and as such, it’s not as real as the life that passes around us every waking moment. Often the information we receive online is biased in some fashion, viewed through someone else’s lens, which will inevitably affect how we think. As well as that, many forms of social media are designed as a form of escapism, providing a welcome distraction from the humdrum of everyday life. Streaming platforms like Spotify and YouTube also follow this trend, because they’re all there to serve as a method of distraction from everyday life, making it nearly impossible to use them in a way that feels more grounded.
According to author, Haruki Murakami: “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” Therefore, it can be argued that, if we are all listening to relatively the same type of music and scrolling through the same social media as everyone else, we can’t form any unique or meaningful thoughts. Even if we try to harness our time on our phones so there’s less white noise and more productive stimulation, it’s hard to create an individual piece of art from it. So, even if you can limit the amount of stimulation you receive and swap it out for something more helpful, it’s not necessarily conducive to unique creative thinking.
In response to this constant stimulation that has come about in the 21st century, mindfulness is being pushed as a way to reconnect with the world around you. Mindfulness is something that many people attempt to harness in order to feel present in life around them, by paying attention to the current moment, in a society that is full of so many stimulants which isolate us. When we look at the relevance of mindfulness, we can see that clearly there is a need for everyone to escape the constant stimulants of life, not just artists.
So, is it possible to be creative in a society that pumps us with so many stimulants and distractions? It seems that, if you really want to be artistic, you need to make a conscious effort to be more present and escape constant stimulation, a task which does not seem easy in our current society. Next time you’re on the bus or walking to work, ditch the earphones and keep your phone in your pocket. Who knows what we might see.