We're pleased to introduce Spoken Word Performance Poet, Writer, Mentor and Art Activist Deneka Thomas.
1. How do you define creativity and what does it mean to you?
I've never given much thought to what creativity meant for me, nor it's definition in context with the work that I do. I know that it is and that makes it hard to define. I know without thought that it is a giving of self. It is about leaving fractions of ourselves to the interpretation of the world.
Creativity is the external expression of our identities expressed through sharing our ideas, emotions, and opinions through art and other mediums that tell our stories efficiently. It is bringing your imagination into being. It is finding the materials that make up our passions and building universes out of them. Creativity is being unapologetic and authentic.
2. How much of your creative ability do you think is innate? Or is your creativity a skill that you have developed?
We are beings born out of creativity. It is our nature to create. While our creativity can be inspired by external stimuli, whatever we produce still comes from within us. You can search to the end of the earth and you will not find someone who looks, sound, think or interpret the world exactly like you. You are unique and so your inventions are also unique. I thnk that is an extremely beautiful thing.
3. When did you realize that you wanted to express your creativity? Was it encouraged by others (e.g., parents)?
Being a citizen of the world is what made me want to express my creativity. From an early age, I understood that my individualism was purposeful, that my existence was important and necessary. That my voice was indispensable. It is why I gravitated towards spoken word poetry. Once that was clear I wanted y voice towards affecting social change. Towards making a difference. It made me want to share my writing with others. It was a matter of acknowledging that I was made to create, inspire and provoke thoughts, not to be stifled in any way.
I've always had an abundance support where my work is concerned
4. What is your standard for evaluating your own creative work and the works of other people? Do you think that monetary rewards can be compatible with creativity in general? Are monetary rewards relevant to your own work?
The standard for evaluating my creative work has never been a quantifiable thing. I do try to stay true to myself. My work is always supposed to be a reflection of who I am. I will not create anything I do not believe in or feel deeply for. I guess the only standard is the question I ask myself after every new piece is created, "Am I being 100% Authentic in this creation?" If it is an authentic representation of myself I share it with the world. If it is not I don't.
The world has been in a space where people who sought careers in the arts were not respected. Where being a writer, painter, or musician was seen as something people did only as hobbies and not as full-time jobs. However, things are changing and more people are proving that it is not so. You can follow your passions and make a living. The two are synonymous and not separate. Our creations are worth of monetary rewards and more so respect.
5. Do you think your own perception and evaluation of your creative endeavors are influenced by the views of other people? What role do you think the culture that you live in plays in your creative efforts?
I believe our own perception is what makes the world colorful. People's creative endeavors will always be unique to them. Every time a person discovers their own identity apart from the big picture, something extraordinarily distinctive is added to the culture of this melting pot we call home. Something that cannot be exactly replicated.
Culture is our personal interpretations of what was done before. We take it and make it our own. It becomes something new and varies from person to person. It even varies from generation to generation. The culture that I live in currently is molded by my experiences, interactions and the different spaces I am exposed to. My creativity is a reflection of that. Not of the views of others.
6. What do you do when you experience a creative block?
I meditate. Finding time to become mindful and declutter is a regular thing for me. Creative block or not it is part of my daily routine. You'd be amazed how much a bit of solitude helps put things in perspective. My mind is always engaged in a continuous internal dialogue. It gets loud in there. Every now and then I have to slow down and regain balance. Whether it takes hibernating in the sanctuary of my room or heading to the beach or a hike, taking a break from tending to the world and tending to myself is important.
7. How do you make the leap from a "Spark" in your head to the action you produce?
There's a saying that says nothing is new under the sun. While a topic or outlook may be old , I believe the way in which we produce our creativity is what is new. No one will write a poem or piece of work exactly the way I would. When I get that bolt of inspiration, my first thought is always, "How can I make this my own?" "How can I do this in a way it has never been done?"
It is always a very spiritual thing moving from the "Spark" which most times is an explosion and towards containing it into something useful and coherent on paper. I dig deep within myself and the work always manifest the way it needs to at that moment and that's always good enough.
8. Do you have any special rituals that you do in order to achieve your creative goals?
I do not have any special rituals. However, reading in times of drought when a particular type of energy is needed is something you may find me turning to. I listen to music, go out and meet people and have conversations. Those conversations can move from casual chit-chat to intellectually stimulating depending on what is necessary. At different times, different stimuli are required.
9. Has your creativity changed stylistically as you have matured? If it has changed, please explain how?
Creativity is a continuum. It keeps growing, changing and evolving. As I change forms so will my creativity. Everything is connected. My writing moved from being very preachy to being metaphorical. I've found a way to be gentle and subtle yet urgent through telling stories. I have found a way to connect with people without sacrificing my identity. Without succumbing to the opinion of the world.
I've found my voice in the process. I've found a way to stay true to myself while still exploring other avenues and styles of the art form. Growth is being malleable and not limiting yourself. It is extending your arms into the multiverse becoming different things.
10. What has been the greatest sacrifice that you have made for your craft?
Definitely time. Looking back I've traded a lot of hours for the sake of the craft.
11. Who or what has helped you to persevere and not quit?
There is so much to be said. So many people who cannot speak for themselves. So many people who's tongues are caged for fear of being misunderstood or rejected. My motivation is my "why". I write because there are things within me that needs to be released.
I use writing, performance, and advocacy to build bridges of compassion, empowerment and edification. Transversing various interpretations of the world and states of being that supersede one's everyday experience. What makes me not quit is the feeling in every molecule of my being that I was brought into being to make people better, to make the world better and this is the only way I know how to do so.
12. Do you believe that it is important to be accepted by others as being creative or is just doing what you love to do enough to justify your work? Explain.
Being accepted isn't important but I'd like to know I am reaching people with the work that I do. When someone offers their opinion (good or bad) or constructive criticism, it helps me become better. Hearing how people interpret something I tried expressing and how it impacted them is important to my growth. I'd like to know that my work is doing well.
13. Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain.
The need to always improve and be the best version of myself will always exist. I am more concerned with authenticity than anything else. Pleasing people isn't something my evolved self is interested in. If it isn't a reflection of who I am, I do not give it the power to affect my creative process. It ranges from things such as people, ideas/ideologies or energy. I simply do not give rejection the light of day. It is all part of the journey.
14. Looking at what you have created in the past, would you change anything today? Why or why not?
Everything I have ever experienced has shaped the writer, poet, human and everything else that I am today. If did not write some terrible pieces, there would not have been a basis to fuel the creation of the great ones. I cringe every time I look back at old work because there are vast differences in style, outlook and general execution of my ideas to what I produce now. Still, who would I be without them?
15. Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubt?
There was this period in my early days where I didn't think my work was good enough for the consumption of others. Consumption is a weird word to use but that's what it is. We pour ourselves out through our mediums and people consume what we've created. The fractions of ourselves we have willingly offered.
I decided that no matter what I was enough. I didn't need to dilute or downplay my talent and expression for the comfort of anyone. I realized that shrinking myself down to containment and having my creativity suffocated for fear of not being good enough was robbing myself of the full experience. The world is already filled with enough people who do that. It is a form of bondage.
16. What piece of work are you most proud of? Why?
There is a poem I wrote entitled, "Steel Pan". It is an extended metaphor of using the steelpan to describe the domestic abuse of a woman. It was the piece that made me make it to the finals of the Verses Bocas Poetry Slam 2015, which was a big deal at the time. I wrote the piece in 2014 but was too afraid to share it. Creating that piece was definitely a milestone in my craft. My writing took a quantum leap then. It showed the boundlessness of what I could write when I got out of my head. I'd never created anything like it before. In learning how to perform the piece it was as though I rekindled with my purpose. It was a deeply spiritual defining of self. From then I knew I was capable of anything.
17. What is the best advice you've received that helped you move forward on your creative journey?
The first piece of writing I had ever shared publicly was in primary school. It was a calypso song I wrote for my school's calypso competition. I wrote only stories at the time but I knew what calypso was supposed to sound like so I applied that knowledge into writing only a verse and chorus. I became blocked and became very sad that I couldn't complete it. My mother took me to her friend, one of the country's foremost Midnight Robbers, Brian Honore listened to it and said that I was talented and that I should continue writing no matter what. He told me that in in a world where so many people are oppressed and have their pleas silenced, my expression was all that I have to ensure my freedom. His words always encouraged me to keep doing.
18. To a young Creative emerging in your field, what advice would you impart unto them?
Always challenge yourself. Your only competitor is you. Write anything and everything. Listen and read different styles and genres and become familiar with different interpretations of the world. It will help you shape your own. Be authentic and gentle with yourself as with everything you do. The universe supports everything you have to offer.
19. What would you most like to be remembered for?
For always entertaining good energy and vibrations. For my fascination with everything that exists within this galaxy and the different ways in which they are communicated. I want to be remembered for always being genuine.
20. If you were a crayon, what would be the name of your colour?
We thank Deneka sharing her thoughts and work so freely with us. It was inspiring and we wish her every success.