I came across a short video this morning, and I found it to be both funny, and touching. The speaker is author Neil Gaimen, and he is speaking at a commencement ceremony of an arts college:
When I was in my early 20′s, I lived with the illusion that I could only make good music if I was going through some kind of traumatic experience, or if I was depressed, or emotionally charged about something. As I’ve come to learn more about myself and my craft, I’ve learned that I can make music anytime I sit down and concentrate on working on music. The saying that 80% of life is just “showing up” is very much the truth. But if I can make that time more conscious and inspirational, by shelving the distractions away, my mind becomes freed from its suffering and I dwell in a place that’s a little bit more beautiful.
So the truth behind anguish and art is not so much that the anguish is inspiring the art, but that the overwhelming anguish reminds me to step away from my suffering and try to get some perspective on it, namely, by doing something that I genuinely love. Maybe the anguish becomes the subject of the art, maybe it doesn’t. The point is, if life gets hard, show up and make some art. Nowadays, I do it whether I’m happy or sad.
I believe everyone has a creative impetus at their core. It’s a crucial part of what makes us human. Art is a term used very broadly, and I would define it as the act of changing one thing into another thing. Art can be cleaning, blogging, writing a letter to a friend, cooking, taking a photograph, painting a picture, folding paper, building furniture, sweeping your patio, planting something, pruning a bush, repairing your bicycle…I could go on. Making art is mundane sometimes. Try editing out the breaths and pops of a recorded vocal line sometime and you will see what I mean. Life is mundane sometimes. I try to find pleasure in the mundane. Admittedly, I don’t always succeed in that. But as the years go by, it gets a little easier.