Life, Death, And Creativity
I do not know if creative people have a more difficult life because of the stress of the creative process or we just hear about the tragedy of their lives more often because they are in the public’s eye. When I think of creative people like Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams, etc., I have to wonder if and how their lives are any more difficult than that of any other creative individuals, and yet we lose so much creative genius through substance abuse or suicides: Hemingway, Joplin, David Foster Wallace. What does creative genius do to one’s self image, one’s self esteem, so that individual has no other option than to destroy or end his/her life?
Perhaps living a creative life forces one to burn out faster. I mean how much can one person create? My friend Arne Nybak painted almost every day up until his death at 89. Without any judgement, I partially understand cases like Robin Williams. If I were in a situation where I could no longer do what I love, I might consider suicide a viable option. When Arne knew he would no longer be able to go to his studio and paint, he willed himself to die. I suppose I will never know unless I am in that situation. I believe I would chose death over being a continued burden to a loved one or to myself, but do I really know that?
When AIDS reached the shores of America in the 1980’s, we lost a large portion of our nation’s creative genius. I have a friend who at that time was a member of the Gay Men’s Choir in San Francisco. He tells the story of how the choir had to disband practices because at each practice they learned of another member’s death or infection with the disease. The emotional stress became too much to bear. He channelled his creativity into his business, but many could not find other creative outlets and their lives ended all too soon.
The truth is one does not know what he will do in a given situation until one is in it. Nothing really prepares us for life except living it day by day, situation by situation.
Thinking about things is what the philosopher in me does. When I have nothing to say through writing, I read. I do not pressure myself to write and I do not call it writer’s block (a negative term I do not use). It is just a pause in the creative process of writing, a time to breathe or take a break and do something else. I think society places too heavy a burden upon the backs of creative individuals but we also do it to ourselves in attempting to meet the needs of that society and often the needs of our own drive. Although it might lead to recognition, creativity is not about fame. Fame is so fleeting. Creativity is not. Our creative endeavors should not be driven by a greedy public’s demands. We are not only as good as our last studio album, or our last art showing, or our last book. There is nothing wrong with placing all of our creative energy into one project, one book, or one song. Creativity is not a production line.
In order for the creative process to not destroy the creator, we must control its place in our lives and not have it or society’s demand for more control us.