Some of the best artists were inspired by their sadness. Poe, Dickens and van Gogh immediately come to mind. Maybe inspired isn’t the right word though. Maybe they were driven forward by depression; shoved to push their emotion through the only outlet they knew and in the process creating art that lasted through the ages. I’d say more of us, however are simply halted in our tracks by it.
When I say depression I don’t simply mean sadness or loss; I include apathy, lethargy and self-doubt in this grouping because all affect artists in a similar way: they are feelings that either create art within us or prevent us from doing so. I myself am a victim of the latter kind of depression. When I’m filled with self-doubt, every word that appears upon the page is one I neither trust nor feel that I can follow through with. On my down days, I’ll type out a page, absolutely hate it and not touch the keyboard for the rest of the day.
I’ve tried pushing through it. On rare occasions that has worked but more often than not I end up junking everything I’ve written that day because there’s simply no spark of inspiration in it. It’s the sad ramblings of a distracted mind. It might be different if I was a poet or a painter or a songwriter where stream-of-consciousness creation can often lead to genius, but as a fiction writer if I’m not in the game and in the head of my characters that work is going nowhere.
Before I give you the wrong idea with this entry, let me stop and tell you that I don’t have a solution to this dilemma. There won’t be a magical “ah-ha” proclamation at the end of this page that tells you how to pull yourself up by your bootstraps while feeling down and get back to creating great art. I’m a seeker just like you are. This is a blog of questions more than answers, no matter how much I wish it to the contrary. I want to know what you want to know, and in voicing these questions I hope to begin to see answers peeking through the fog, or perhaps even discover that those answers lie within the questions themselves.
Perhaps the ups and downs and how we deal with them are what make us alive. We can’t be at our “best” every day or even most days because on any given day we will only be who we are. I can’t put on a magic hat and suddenly be the best Rob there can be. I can only be today’s Rob. I think…there’s something beautiful in that. My inspiration will come not out of pushing and pulling and fighting it, but out of letting it happen. If you believe yours comes from a similar direction, try to be proud of that, not frustrated by it.
You know the adage about the quietest of us often having the most profound things to say? Maybe that’s a good metaphor for some of us. We sit. We listen. We live, and then suddenly we open our mouths and something beautiful comes out.
I may be back to being frustrated with myself tomorrow, but today that realization makes me smile 🙂
I love this entry. I’ve been blogging online for over a decade now (!) and writing has always been my outlet. Then it all stopped. No more words. The depression was (is) killing me, and I don’t have even that LAST resort…
i imagine myself as a heart monitor. When the line is in the middle, those are “me” days, lucid days, good days, even. Then there is the spike up (WAY up), and the spikes down (WAY) down… and they could be about anything. I don’t even know what the trigger is. But it’s something. And it’s something I’m very afraid of. Depression comes from everywhere these days, it’s a silent epidemic. I’d love to be one the ones that isn’t affected by it, but that’s not the way of it for me. I wish that also for you, and all of us “tough” “survivors” of a brain illness.
Thank you for writing. 🙂
Thank you for that, Mindy. I sometimes have to remind myself that I’m not broken because of my up and down nature. Life has a way of reminding me though that I can and should appreciate myself and my art for who I am and what it is (one and the same, really).
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I know exactly where you’re coming from. I call my moments “black days” because there’s usually nothing that can break through the emptiness that I feel. Fortunately, they don’t come around often, but when they do, it’s like someone pulled the light switch in my head and there’s no light. Sometimes I can use this to paint or to write a poem *if I’m lucky!*. Usually I have to just march through it and know that it will eventually go away. Thanks for blogging about this. It’s hard to be honest about things that you feel ashamed or embarrassed of, at least it is for me. I think the one nugget of gold in having “black days” is that even if I have a hard time creating during these bleak moments, I have always been able to use the knowledge and depth of feeling later on in my more creative moments. I can draw on what I have felt in the past and it, I hope, adds another layer of truth to my work. Maybe it’s a curse and a blessing.
That’s a very good point. When I’m in an “up” day I can refer to how I felt during my down days and draw perspective from them. Thanks for sharing that.