The apogee of rationality is creation. Our greatest gift as a human race is the ability to imagine. It’s is one of the most concrete aspects that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. Look at this website. This is a heavenly shrine to creation. As I live and breathe, I devour the creation of others with voracious appetite, be it music, film, comics, the written word, anything. I write my reactions, some tempered, some impulsive, expressing on expressions. I care about the creative work of others more than anything else. It keeps me going. For I am human. And I must escape the prison of my rationality.
Creation ebbs and flows with the lunar cycles of the tides of inspiration. What one day leaves me cold and disengaged could just as soon open my mind’s eye to heretofore unseen vistas of possibility within a month, a week, a day, an hour. Imagination and expression may be best comprehended, corralled and disseminated by the rational mind, but it is the instinct that spurs us on to create in the first place. The muse takes us on an uncontrolled journey of torrential emotion to be distilled by simile and metaphor, by verse and chorus, by line and brush stroke. The best works of art aren’t manufactured from conception by the careful, level mind. They’re raging beasts barely contained by the forms and boundaries of societal expression. We create because we have to. We create because we need to. We create because our brains are so complex compared to a common animal that we have too much time to think. Overthinking separates us from ourselves as both rational minds and creatures that live in a physical, interactive world. Creation and expression are the pressure valves that allow us to stay tethered to reality. We create to save ourselves. We consume to relate. Much like anything, our imagination is a boon that can easily turn to vice when overused. We all want to create on some level; we live vicariously through the creation and expression of others when we can’t do it ourselves.
But if we never do it ourselves, this release, this cathersis can only take us so far. Frustration settles in. We can relate to the works of others, we can revel in overlapping sentiments, but they lack the personal touch. As much as that devastating Tom Waits ballad about love lost (let’s say “Invitation to the Blues”) may share similar emotions to your recent devastating break-up, it’s not exactly the same. The relation is a Bandage. We cannot be able to truly find our own way unless we do exactly that. Find our own way. Frustration sinks in, deeper than before. We might not even know why we’re frustrated if we never think to express ourselves in the first place. Spirals begin to spiral viciously. We remain unfulfilled.
Part of the reason why I write for this site knowing that not many people read it is for this exact purpose. Critique and creation are not one in the same. Critique only takes us so far, and while the process of critique involves reflection on the expression of the object within our own frame of reference, our own standards, our personal convictions, it is still not creation in the sharpest sense. You create an essay that is filled with your beliefs, opinions, passions about the matter, but the matter itself is not yours. The act of writing as creation has its merits for even the critic; there is certainly skill with the pen required in a good critique. Still, the true catharsis of expression only comes from releasing the specific emotion of the self outward as creativity. I struggle with this conundrum often, finding myself wanting to, needing to create something in order to combat some kind of subconscious malaise. I try to sate these feelings through the upkeep of this website; it gives me the outlet to post secondary creative works like critiques, as well as offering the not insignificant element of distraction, but it only lasts for so long.
If you look at the history of this website, you will see small bursts of creativity. Some critique articles have more of a specific voice than others, offering staid but expositional prose designed to efficiently (and rationally) establish points on subjects. Obviously, the greatest examples of my attempts to release the pressure valve are the two fractions of stories, Going Home Again, and The Machine of Dreams. These stories are unfinished, and will presumably never be finished; they are simply short bursts of creativity, presumably necessitated by that same growing malaise that comes from partial catharsis. Perhaps the pressure was released enough in those short bursts that I no longer had the drive to push forward; creativity and expression can be and are undeniably draining experiences for the artist. Regardless of the reason, I can feel the same subconscious pull on myself to create now, and I expect sooner rather than later to explode forth some more story fragments, most likely sliding back into critique when the monster has been sated.
To what extent do we need to create in order to function in our daily lives? Creativity means different things to different people. Some would consider cooking an art and outlet for their creativity, and who could argue with them? Some write words, some write songs, some paint pictures and film moving things. Some create Magic the Gathering decklists. Creation is around us at all times, and really it’s just the question of what we choose to do, the conviction we choose to attack it with, and whether the product is enough to keep us content. We do what we do because we must. There is no other choice. The longer we deny this (whether intentionally or unintentionally), the more it eats at us.
Most of this article came to me over the past few days when reading Amanda Palmer’s blog. I’ve been a fan of the Dresden Dolls for some time, and the Dolls have been on my mind since they announced a reunion tour. It’s safe to say that Palmer’s a bit more active on the web than Brian Viglione (who is the real reason I’m a Dolls diehard), and reading up on some of her blog entries, I was struck by the free spirited nature of it all. The do anything necessary vibe that comes with true creation and expression. It reminded me of my time in college.
The first two years of my college career, I spent a lot of time with a group of friends who were all about two years older than me. We would spend time at their apartment off-campus, listen to music, perhaps partake in a few illegal activities, and generally experience the world. They eventually put together a band and did a couple shows in the area before they graduated from college and went their separate ways and I settled into more of a routine with my current group of friends that I still keep up with to this day. The best times of my life (and I mean my entire life) were spent on apartment stoops and couches smoking cigarettes and talking about philosophy, music, film, whatever would come up naturally in conversation. It’s this kind of free interaction, the leave the world behind and just interact times that I don’t get anymore. It’s what I miss most. It’s probably the main reason why I’m creatively unfulfilled. I still work at that same college, trying to cling to academia as much as possible, but it’s not the same.
I assume something creative will be coming soon. It basically has to. I’m full to bursting.
This post was written to the tune of Amanda Palmer’s Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on her Magic Ukelele