Like every fashion blog I do enjoy putting together outfits, sharing quirky life moments, and (in my case) talking to my brother. Mostly, I don’t like to be too serious. People don’t generally take me too seriously anywhere- and I’m happy about this. But I do hope to have some point. In search of a purpose here, I’m starting a new series of articles (every Thursday): they’re curiously called ‘demystifying beauty’- and their purpose is just that: to decipher and explore what is really beautiful. Oh- and that name took me a good fifteen minutes to come up with- so please bear with me. You can clap too if you want (cue applause track). These pieces are not about fashion, they’re not about makeup, they’re not about what my brother thinks about the trivialities I usually focus on. I hope you like them.
Today I want to write about empathetic inspiration.
Don’t worry. I think I just invented that; so it’s alright if it makes absolutely no sense. That’s the point of the next eight or so paragraphs.
For most of my life I had no clue what empathy meant. It sounded like sympathy except it was more difficult to spell (no really- it was). But sometime last year I came across a fascinating, if slightly quirky and difficult to accept, theory that empathy is in fact a gift. I.e. a special power that not every one has. While that was heartening, because I had all the symptoms, it was also disappointing, because empathy is perhaps one of the most beautiful gifts we possess (it’s not in fact some kind of super power- even though that makes short work of the cape I’d had tailored)- and so I can’t believe it’s not universally vibrant and strong.
It’s just overlooked.
Wikipedia has the most awesome and concise definition of empathy that I’ve come across (all hail Wikipedia): “Empathy is an ability with many different definitions (unquote: Touche!!). They cover a broad spectrum, ranging from caring for other people and having a desire to help them, to experiencing emotions that match another person’s emotions, to knowing what the other person is thinking or feeling, to blurring the line between self and other.” This is some deep stuff. I might need a week to recover from writing this.
So if empathy is a deep understanding of another person’s feelings and motivations, can it be a vital ingredient for creativity? I would say yes (I should hope so, otherwise this is a pointless couple of hours writing out this post). How so?
Creativity doesn’t exist in a vacuum (this is not to say there aren’t a million creative bits of dust and microorganisms living in your vacuum; I just don’t know them well enough to comment on their art). Most, if not all, of the inspiration that goes into our creations, come from an outside source; a combination of fragmented memories of other people’s ideas and work. But are we justly using this inspiration without fully getting to the feelings that fed it?
I think it’s safe to say that if you don’t understand the motives behind a creative work, drawing on it for inspiration can’t enrich your own art. Inspiration without empathy is a bit like a patchwork quilt, or a collage, or all my university essays- it’s just a bunch of things stuck together that don’t really have any permanency, aren’t sure why they’re with each other in the first place, and also look like something you would buy at school fayre (i.e. not something you’d have anything to do with unless your little brother/sister forced you to).
When I started blogging I looked at scores of blogs to draw inspiration from. I looked at scores of fashion blogs, but more so non-fashion blogs. I redesigned my public face a bunch of times. But for a long time, I didn’t get it right because I didn’t know what feeling, passion, or motivation caused other bloggers to share their work in the first place. I did not understand them (I still probably don’t). But the more I searched, the more I came across blogs that really had a rich voice. I started feeling like I knew these people. I knew stuff about their lives. I knew what they liked and what they didn’t like, and I often knew what they were afraid of. That’s pretty powerful information. This also makes me sound like a world class stalker/troller/fashionbloggerpyscho, but at the end of the day, it was only the discovery of blogs where I really got the feeling behind them, that encouraged me to publish my first post.
I have never visited a single blog that updates me on the fashion industry. But every time I find one where I feel that ‘aha- I sense a disturbance in the force; I know what you speak of young padawan; I have felt this way too’ feeling, it’s like I’ve made a discovery. And not just any discovery: but a discovery I can draw on. A discovery that prompts me to create something that will vocalize that weird little ‘aha-moment’ and make it my own. Alright maybe not strictly my own- rather my own with some borrowed liberties.
And so maybe the point of exploration is not to be inspired. It’s to empathize. And in that empathy reach a level of inspiration that can’t exist otherwise.
Oh and the cape was purple. Original (I know).