It's been quite a long time since my last blog post, over 7 months to be exact. I blame this on various factors: hectic work/life schedule, procrastination, laziness, distracted, bored, tired, and finally just the overall lack of creativity. But to be fair I was also doing several final edits on my book which should be out in July of this year so editing kind of sucked all the creative juices out of me. Speaking of which, this would be a good segway into my next topic.
When you think of a creative person images that come to mind are of someone who's whimsical, vivid, and carefree. This person seems to ooze unconventional ideas in the form of art, stories, and/music. He has the innate ability to transport you into their world even if it's for a brief moment. Now we've all heard the terms "tortured artist" and "writer's block." And we've also read about artists, authors, and poets who suffered emotional instabilities. But there's another dilemma that wreaks havoc on the creative mind that most artists don't want to admit to or even acknowledge. Maybe it's not admitted because it brings feelings of shame, guilt, or even a sense of betrayal to their craft. Maybe they think if they feel this way then they are not a true artist. This would be the feeling of being almost bored or uninterested in painting, writing, or creating music.
Any job can eventually feel mundane and monotonous. But this shouldn't apply to creativity? Or can it? Artists can absolutely feel constricted by their craft. It may even become lack-luster. Take for example the writer. When he isn't writing he's thinking about writing or wracked by guilt for not writing. This creates quite a conundrum. A writer should be passionate about his work. So naturally it's not a stretch to see how this can cause self-loathing in the writer. Creativity should be fun and spontaneous? Shouldn't it? So how can a writer or an artist suffocate under his own passion? I think the expectation of how a creative mind should exist IS the precise reason this happens.
Even perfectly loving marriages and those dream jobs can become repetitive. You would think being creative isn't a job because you're not required to do it. Well, you're not required to be married or maintain that dream job but you do because it's what you really want. You take the good with the bad. Nothing is always 100% exciting or 100% boring, so you stay in it for the long haul. Yet that stigma remains when it comes to creativity. I hope the creative community speaks up more about this so we don't become discouraged and give up on our works. Other wise, it could be a slow and agonizing death of the arts and all those creative geniuses.
Anyone who is a lover of literature can quote their favorite passages by heart from the books that have touched and moved them in one way or another. A book that drips with emotion is definitely a rare treasure. It can be soaked with sadness, aflame with madness, or pungent with fear. While these books tend to enthrall us, have you ever put much thought into the author's state of mind when he/she wrote it? If you are anything like me the obviously answer to that question would be....YES! And if you are even more like me, you research the author extensively as if you are trying to crawl inside of him/her. If a book is well written you can literally feel the pain, sadness, desperation, and/or solitude within each pen stroke. These are pieces that tend to be timeless and span generations.
This is why the classics are bestowed with the label "classics." Even though the terminology or slang differs from modern day speech, the core emotions or message it contains resonates through the years. It is not lost in translation but is comprehended by each and every new generation. Who among us does not immediately recognize the phrase "Never more", or "Call me Ishmael"? The loneliness felt when reading "The Raven", or the almost maniacal obsessions while sampling "Moby Dick" is something anyone can relate to. That is because emotion is the one thing that does not change context through out the years.
(Click on link to read further about a few famous authors who suffered mental illness)
One doesn't have to look too far to acknowledge just a few of the famous writers who have struggled with some type of mental illness. Mark Twain succumbed to bouts of depressions and we can be sure that his turbulent family drama played a factor in his struggle. Stephen King self-medicated with alcohol and drugs to cope with his unhappiness yet his most famous works, like "The Shining", were produced during those troubled times.
Sylvia Plath Ernest Hemingway
Sylvia Plath was tormented with suicidal depression, so much so she consented to shock therapy. These experiences are detailed in her only but much acclaimed novel, "The Bell Jar." Ernest Hemingway suffered from bipolar disorder, also known as maniac depression. He underwent shock therapy which he claimed affected his memory which is essential for a writer. I find that the most poignant and resonating pieces are the ones created during times of great turmoil. Let's be honest, books that are all rainbows and lollipops just don't cut it. We all are raptured by stories that encompass suffering where characters are plagued with conflicts, internally or externally. The most memorable characters in a book are the ones that we can relate to, that are human, and this comes from mostly internal conflict. Who doesn't love a character who struggles only to rise above it in the end in some way or another? Just like music we relate to stories that seem to capture issues we ourselves go through.
Current studies being conducted detail the correlations between creative people and mental illnesses.
(Click on link to see article from Stanford University)
Living in such dark, tormented, and maddening places seem to provide some of the most delicately beautiful works of art. Yes, it is a shame that the two seem to go hand in hand and in this day and age with all the medications out there to make everyone feel "normal", one tends to wonder if we will ever see such great works as we have in the past. In no means is this an excuse for someone who does have a mental illness not to seek help. It is just a interesting and somewhat proven theory that one can not help pay attention to. With all the downsides of having a mental illness ( I know since I have lived with depression since I was 18) it is kind of refreshing to see a positive in there. Does that positive outweigh all the negatives? For me, the answer is no. I have lived through some of my darkest times before I went on medication and never wish to return to that state again but I do wonder if the medicine does inhibit my creativity. Food for thought.
Everyone has heard of the term "starving artist" but those two words can encase a multitude of meanings. First, there's the literal translation which is an artist that barely makes ends meet because there isn't much monetary return for his works. Then there is the more philosophical point of view. An artist suffers for his works emotionally by pouring his heart and soul into them. These explanations only touch the tip of this iceberg. Let's be realistic. There's no guarantee of a dependable income when it comes to the arts and writing even if you are well established.
So why do we do it? Why do we continue to indulge our passion if the outcome can possibly be bleak? Personally, I can only explain it as this fiery invisible force that drives me to continue my quest. Quite simply, it is a passion and with any passion comes love, hate, joy, anger, hope, and frustration. Like many other writers I am trying to get my foot in the door. I'm stuck in no man's land. I have tried to get picked up by a traditional publisher but that's hard to do when you're new in the game. Thankfully, indie publishing has gained momentum and is easily accessible. Yet, I don't have the funds to self publish or hire an agent. What's a writer to do?
Even with these obstacles writers and artists alike still embrace their passion. Are we stubborn? Maybe. But artists always have and always will "starve" for their art.
I don't know if I am the only author that finds editing to be a torture tactic implemented by Satan himself but I find this to be vaguely true, at least in my mind. If hell was full of sinful souls that had to be damned to edit for eternity, well my friend, I would honestly consider becoming a nun. I find this process to be grueling and frustrating. I am usually a pretty patient person but when it comes to editing my fuse is unnaturally short. I don't mind the part where I rearrange my ideas, emphasize on thoughts, and delete unnecessary dribble that muddles my story. I enjoy that aspect because I want the reader to live vividly in the world I am creatively trying to depict. It's basically the proof-reading and grammatical corrections that just seem to suck the creativity out of me as if you would suck chocolate milk through a straw. When inspiration strikes, my pen can barely keep up with the thoughts I am trying to pour out onto the page. It's thrilling and exhilarating! So when I go back through these thoughts it is necessary to tweek them because sometimes I cant even understand them myself.
Now I know what you are thinking. This is the job for your editor. And yes you would be correct, but not entirely. Even famed and established authors like Stephen King have to go through their initial manuscript before handing it over to their publishers. Authors want to make sure their vision is represented to their liking and approval. Mr. King has even been quoted as saying that an author should store away their initial manuscript for some time before going back to it. It's brings in a fresh perspective and enables you to keep it true to your vision. I find it more productive and useful to edit a few pages a night. If you are like me and loathe editing then this procedure might be for you. Sitting at a computer for hours on end fixing grammar mistakes and inspecting every tiny aspect of your manuscript can make you go insane. You just have to inclement a schedule and stick to it. Easier said then done of course. Writing isn't like a 9-5 job that clock in and out of while being supervised to make sure you do your required functions. It's more flexible and in there lies the curse. You tend to become lazy, uninspired, distracted, and occasionally deal with writer's block. Sometimes you do have to treat it like a 9-5 job and push yourself to do the task at hand. Otherwise, the threat of your story never coming to life begins to materialize. So I guess editing/proof-reading is a necessary evil.
I would absolutely enjoy know what you think. Take the poll below to voice your opinion.
Who doesn't love to snuggle up in your favorite chair, with a glass of wine or tea, and dive head first into an alternate reality? No. I am not talking about mind altering drugs being slipped into your drink. I am talking about a book. Yes, a book. One of the oldest forms of media that has withstood the test of time. We just don't read a book. We visualize it like a movie being created in our minds with each sentence read. We savor it, feel the emotions of the characters, laugh, cry, hope, and fear along as the story unfolds before our very eyes. It is a very nice, little, and inexpensive escape from reality. Especially for people like me who hardly can afford putting food on the table let alone a sweet island vacation. But when does this little escape become more and more like a permanent leave of absence from reality of our ordinary lives? Is there such a line to be crossed? If so, is it a very fine line or does it depend on your personality or the reality of your own life?
Very interesting questions that really no one can answer but yourself. There have been plenty of days that I have found myself escaping more and more into my reading and writing passions. Sometimes it gets to the point that I feel I have blurred the boundaries between reality and fiction. Other times I prefer to being in this alternate universe than my actual own life. Let's face it, our lives are so much more awesome and exciting in our heads. It becomes easy to want to be in your head more when your life there is more adventurous, thrilling, and pleasurable. But I do believe there is a line that needs to be made aware of. The more you become engulfed with a different reality the more you disconnect from the actual reality your are living. That in turns leaves feelings of not only distance, but sadness, anxiety, and loneliness. And if we spend so much of our time in a made up reality how can we ever turn our actual reality into something more pleasurable to ourselves?
During hardships, like the Great Depression, do you know what activities became prominent? Of course, the obvious answer is suicide and getting drunk but besides that do you know? Library book rentals. That's right. People wanted and needed an escape from the harsh reality they were living in. But that escape from reality can be both a life vest and an anchor. Which bring us back to the to the one sure and redundant answer...moderation. Everything needs to be done in moderation such as drinking, partying, eating, exercise, and yes even reading. But don't let that discourage your passion for reading. It is a timeless form of entertainment that is to be enjoyed. Just be sure to put some effort to bringing joy in your ACTUAL lives.