Misery and artistry have been partnered hand in hand for centuries. Whether it is the most optimistic of creators, or an artist who has been plagued with depression their entire life, it seems as though every true artist has experienced one thing – true misery.
This is not to say the misery was long lived, defeating or unbearable in all cases. But in all cases, it was there.
Even within the most beautiful poems, blissful appreciations of the world, there has once been sadness.
I often think about this when I think about myself as a writer. As a writer I can be gloomy, pensive… okay even a little bit whiny. As a person, well I have my moments, and over the past two years I’ve had more than I would like to admit. But at the core of me I am an only child, therefore inevitably whiny… But I am neither gloomy nor pensive. Do our identity as artists differ from our identity as human beings?
Laughter surrounds me, I love laughter. The sound of it, the way it feels, and the moments it makes. I find true joy in making other people laugh, and I find people who can make me laugh utterly intoxicating. I see the bright side in frustrating situations, turn them into things that they can become instead of things that exist. I find true beauty in the world, and in life and I altogether believe that our lives are incredible works of art whether that work is miserable or exuberant.
So why is it that when I create, I reach deep within myself to find darkness?
As an artist, is this how we exorcise our minds of demons? We all have them. Writing for me almost seems like it must happen. I must rid myself of harmful thoughts, abolish my angst. There is urgency in the process of my writing, a feeling that I have become all too familiar with that screams “Get out, get out NOW.” So that is how I get it all out… I put it on paper.
When a painter creates a masterpiece, floral and blooming, or seeping with agony – are they getting rid of an internal toxin?
Does a musician create a moody melody on the best day of their life, only because no matter what day it is, there is an unfaltering battle within their soul?
Does a photographer capture a breathtaking image of the world, because they can no longer see it through their own eyes and need the assistance of a lens?
Is this detoxing of demons limited to artistry or do others have to find less bold ways of getting out the negativity?
A quote that I love, and one that I am starting to understand comes to mind…
You must have the devil in you to succeed in any of the arts
It makes sense, in different ways. It’s true I believe you must know true defeat to know true happiness. But having the Devil in you? Seems like a heavy burden to carry, loaded with stigma. Must you be evil to succeed in the arts?
I don’t think so. In fact I think you must have a level of compassion. An artist creates their life’s work for others. For people to see, to read, to admire, to criticize and to analyze. Not only does it take a compassionate person to do that, it takes a strong person. However, I do think it is necessary to be in touch with your dark side.
I am obsessed with the idea of living and being free in your mind and your body and your beliefs. I am infatuated with the idea of being truly wild, breezy and stray. A lot of that is shown throughout my writing. I get a lot of inspiration from my belief that life should be this way, free of constraints. So where does that belief come from? I can’t help but thank my many dances with the Devil.
This value must be so strongly within me because as Voltaire stated, I have had the Devil in me. A Devil that caused me to feel trapped in my own skin, stationary and hopeless. Confined to the colorless world around me. Thoughts that engulfed my mind in a cage of perpetual melancholy. That for me was the Devil, and because I had known confinement in my own mind, I developed an insatiable urge for freedom in a vast world.
Our inspirations, our worlds, our knowledge and our values are shaped from our various dances with the Devil himself. They are formed through knowing our dark side, and finding our way out of it. Artists are not reclusive and miserable people. You do not have to be distraught in order to channel your own creativity.
But in order to create you must see the world as a blank slate. You must make of it what you can, and see it as it exists rather than looking at it through rose colored glasses or grey clouds.To make an art out of what surrounds you, I think you must first become familiar with good and evil. It is not the Devil, nor God himself who grants the talent to create. I believe it is a combination of knowing them both well, and learning how to distinguish between the two.