It’s completely bonkers to me how something can make me so depressed and ecstatic at the same time. (Way to go crazy brain!) I wonder often if I would understand this better if I studied to become a neuroscientist. Which thanks to this site, this one, this one, this page over here and this, from a different perspective but on the same site I could, in theory gather enough information if not to become a neuroscientist, at very least begin to understand what makes the human mind (mine in particular, I find myself fascinating) feel the way it does about the things it interacts with.
Wait, does neuroscience take into account emotional response? That’s how little I know about it. When I know more, I’ll better be able to answer that question. In the meantime, I’m addressing the very simple yet slightly confusing statement I began with.
Creativity makes me sad.
I read Clive Barker (I recently stumbled across Imajica, my all time favourite book by him in a store, bound in the cover that happens to be my favourite, with the image that I’ve often desired as a tattoo, kinda) or Neil Gaiman or Neal Stephenson and I lose myself in these fantastic worlds they create. That’s not fair, they don’t just invent these worlds(though they do), they flesh them out with a depth so rich, I become transported and emotionally involved in these characters, creatures and places. Especially with Clive Barker, he was my first foray into the dark and monster strewn fantasy worlds. The monsters that have come from his brain and found purchase in mine, have affected how I view the world (when I was younger, I wanted so much to go to Midian (the one near Athabasca not the Red Sea) because that’s where the monsters live. I imagine even if it hadn’t been destroyed by asshole rednecks back in the 80’s, it would be buried under the tar sands by now) and how much the possibility of magic is a common, everyday occurrence for me. He did that and he’ll probably never know how much enchantment my existence is filled with because of his incredibly gifted brain.
I would write him a letter to say so but it might make him die. That’s how Roald Dahl died, I’m pretty sure. I sent him a letter and the only copy of what might be the best story I’ve ever written (I can say that because it’s the only copy) and found out he died either just before or just after it got there. Either way, his death will forever resonate with my having tried to contact him (thanks yet again, crazy brain) and so I will never make that mistake again. Unless I try it out of someone I don’t like very much, but that doesn’t seem right either. There are many people on earth I wish many different things upon, mostly in the realm of a third eye enema, but rarely do I wish death on anyone. That was a strange detour…
Yes, it’s great to let people know you think they are awesome. But how much better is it to take what they’ve given you and use it to channel your own creativity into a place where someone else benefits and finds delight in a place they never expected to find it. And then they write or draw or create something and the whole beautiful thing perpetuates itself into a glorious abundance of really awesome stuff. Lenny Bruce(among others) inspired George Carlin (they rode to the police station in the same truck after being arrested at a nightclub, one for obscenity and the other for refusing to produce identification) and Richard Pryor, who in turn inspired…it just goes on and on. It’s the same with writers, primatologists, painters, scientists. Politicians? Maybe not so much anymore. And soldiers? Are there any young people out there who want to grow up to be just like Nathan Hale anymore? Here I go sideways again. Super distracted tonight.
Ok, what I’m wondering is this. Is it unusual to feel both ecstatic by the extent of engagement into an imagined reality such as Mr Barker creates in Imajica and totally depressed when faced with the possibility that my brain will never come up with something as beautiful and courageous and lasting?
Everytime I pick up a book by Neil Gaiman, I go into it knowing that at some point, I’m going to shake my head in dismay at my inability to come up with something to match it. He comes up with story ideas that are so good and so obviously needing to be written, they can’t help but be brilliant. A beautifully dark what came after Narnia story. A Cthulu mythos tale with the perfect mix of horrific and hilarious. And a mashup of two of the best known genres, which I never expected to meet, though they work together perfectly. Those are just his ideas transposed onto worlds that already exist. When he puts his mind and pen to concieving something new? It’s love. And Neal Stephenson? I cannot even begin to express my euphoria when it comes to his abilities. I’m not even going to try. The amount of times I look up from his books probably with a look of oh WOW! on my face is a lot. How could I possibly hope to compete with such heavy hitters…these are only three of the multitude* of writers I’m both mad for and mad about. We’re all mad here.
Of course, the cheerleader (she’s so optimistic) constantly throws in that three letter game changer, that even let’s just stay in our pyjamas until we die brain can’t dispute. YET. I haven’t come up with anything as profound or beautiful or haunting or mystical or terrifying or intelligent, yet. Which leaves it wide open. Well played we can do it brain.
I also know that there is folly in comparing myself to others, especially when those others have realized their gifts for storytelling in a coherent and almost businesslike manner. They have found a method that works, that helps them channel those delightful thoughts and ideas into word on paper. I don’t even have a desk! I’m writing this half sitting up on a bed with my knees at an awkward angle propping up the laptop (a feature to be addressed come the new year**, once I have addressed my desire for an address of my own. It’s happening.)
Also, I’m still rambling over here, trying to find the method of narrative that works best. The nice thing is these days, I’m writing by hand just as often as I do here, which is better for me I think. It used to be all by hand and it was prolific and somewhat focused because there was more physicality to it.
Then the age of the laptop, with the ease of the backspace button, and fingers that can suddenly move as fast as my mind, if not faster sometimes. Except that things would be started (files and files and files worth), a single line, a paragraph and stored with an ambiguous title that rarely gets looked at again. There is no accountability because there’s no paper being used, how does one feel guilty about taking up kilobytes as opposed to space in a book. I can start a new file and save it and close it and never look at it again until later when I think what the hell is that and open it and think, huh. That was the start of something kind of interesting, too bad I’m not there anymore. Maybe I’ll try to follow through on it someday when I have the time. Because there are so many days like that. It can be an endless cycle of creative depression where my brain says thing such as “I bet Richard K. Morgan doesn’t have endless files filled with story ideas he never follows through on.” Which is insane because I totally bet he does. If he uses a laptop. Which I totally bet he does. The point is, I rarely start something on paper that I don’t follow through on, at least 3 quarters of the page. Is it out of sympathetic obligation to the tree? Or is it that my brain just feels more responsible for what it’s writing when the only option for editing is a severe stroke of a pen through a line that will still exist even when it’s crossed out.
Either way, for whatever reason I feel sad when I find something so good it makes me happy. It’s not limited to writing or rehabilitating chimpanzees in Tanzania or cirque du soleil (i.e things I really would like to do) because I have exactly the same feeling watching Bob Ross paint something. It starts off as seemingly little and suddenly it’s coherent and recognizable and those simple lines just made a goddamn happy little mountain! It extends to films and music and pretty much everything that is awesome that I didn’t do. I am overjoyed that it exists, but a little sad that it doesn’t exist because of me. That I know of. Oh ego brain, you silly thing with your need to be intrinsic, no matter what is happening. I guess that’s not unusual, but I wonder if that’s really all it is. Is it just that my ego is so vast, it gets upset at the notion that there might be people out there better at things than we are? If that’s the case, there looks to be a whole lifetime of disappointments to discover. How wonderful.
*Dianna Wynne-Jones, Ursula LeGuin, Alan Moore, Madeleine L’engle, Ray Bradbury, Grant Morrison, Steven Erikson, HP Lovecraft and many more. Just to be clear, I’m speaking of fiction writers who have the ability to, at least for a short time if not forever, convince me utterly that something very fantastic or impossible is perfectly reasonable and probably true. Whether it be another world, species, ability, whatever. Other fiction writers can make me emotionally invested, but the parameters of their worlds may not be so fanciful or grotesque.
**the new year starts on march first. For me at least.