These thoughts were inspired by a mighty fine post by Avery DeBow. The nature of creativity and the creative process seems much on my mind these days...
"Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" - Job 5:7
Which is to say, we all have pain. Or, to quote Michael Stipe, "Everybody hurts." The pain's there. It's always there, for all of us, all the time. Big deal.
Whether or not pain is necessary to the creation of art is an interesting argument. Personally, I'm undecided. Pain may be the single most important ingredient in art, that little speck of dirt that irritates an oyster into pearly goodness. Or art may simply be the lens through which we focus the whole of the human experience, misery and pain caught up in the picture so often because there's simply so much of it...
The idea that an artist must be miserable to create genius is, I think, utterly specious. Pain in your past, sure, but pain in your present? Necessary? Not a chance.
Sure, some artists have created works of genius in states of abject misery. F. Scott Fitzgerald turned out some fabulous writing while slugging it out with Zelda and drinking himself to death. Some of Picasso's best work coincided with the worst moments of the sexual maelstrom of his life. For them, the work was the single firm place they had to stand when the tempest raged.
The work can save you in bad times. When the sparks truly begin to fly upward, you can give yourself to the work and get through. Truth.
But the muse comes easier if your present is stable and content. That smelly, snuffling critter likes to know when and where to find you, and that you'll be ready to follow where it leads, *if* it feels like coming around. Your best work happens when it doesn't have to haul you out of an opium den...
Henry Miller didn't even start to do his best work until his worst days were behind him. Same for Leonardo DaVinci (that whole sodomy trial thing...), Jack Kirby (a rough street kid who invented half of Marvel's superheroes), Chretien de Troyes (a retired soldier before he put his own fresh spin on the Grail cycle), Dean Koontz (whose homelife is a model of stability since his dad can no longer try to kill him), the list goes on...
Or look at James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Ed Gorman and all the rest whose best work happened after they got sober, got stable, got settled.
Worried your pain isn't enough? I used to. How do my piddling little problems stack up against those guys? I mean, I've never been to war, been on trial, I'm not addicted to anything and heaps of people have had *much* worse childhoods.
But then I think about Joyce Carol Oates. Her life is pleasant and orderly life, her childhood ordinary, but when she sits down in that lovely room with the big window and her pen, watch out!
Charles Schulz's single great trauma was that he once loved a girl who didn't love him back, an experience I think it's safe to say, not that uncommon. Hell, as many times as my heart's been broken, I want to accuse him of milking it.
But man, what he did with that one little heartbreak!
My point? Schulz worked through his stuff in a *gorgeous* studio in a *gorgeous* home, with a loving wife and kids around. And as his life got better and better, so did his work.
Whoever you are, whatever's behind you and whatever's coming, know this:
You have what you need. Just use it to create.
It's Alive - by Loren D. Estleman - Somehow I missed the Valentino series from Loren D. Estleman until browsing the other day and hitting on the latest book, *Alive!* * * Happy to be aboard...
17 hours ago