This is a story that has gone through various incarnations in its time and an earlier version of it was aired on the amazing ‘Mailman’s Survival Guide to the Galaxy’ podcast. I first wrote it a while ago when I started to notice a recurring feature that can be found lurking in the backstory of countless great artists from multiple mediums. The link between creativity and melancholy is one that intrigues and terrifies me in equal measure and after hours spend pondering exactly what it is that haunts the souls of so many talented people, I think I’ve worked out the answer.
There is a powerful force that silently possesses all of mankind’s artists. It is the energy that drives their consciousness and determines their worldviews. It is there at the hazy inception of the idea and the happy conclusion of the piece, watching and interjecting. From the first cave drawings, etched in stone by prehistoric visionaries to the last hypnotic swirl in the skyline of Van Gough’s Starry Night, it has always been there in the soul of every creator.
It is an intoxicating entity that resides within authors, coursing through their bodies as they write their narratives, filling each paragraph with flowing prose and vibrant imagery. It inhabits the minds of artists as they paint their masterpieces, slides down into their arms and governs the placement of every colourful brushstroke.
It is the force that reinvigorates the hands of poets as they hold their tired pens and waits in the corners of rappers mouths as they recite their bars to lively crowds.
It surges through the cores of actors as they begin to embody their roles, helping them remember their lines and capture the nuances of the scenes.
It departs the actors on the sets as they prepare for their first takes and disappears behind the cameras where the directors lay in wait. Into the filmmakers’ heads it goes, dashing from sequence to sequence, as it brings the scripts to life in their imaginations and quickly clarifies the last few muddled shots before the cameras start to roll.
It plants melodies and lyrics into the hearts of singers as they perform on stage and makes itself comfortable within the fingers of musicians as they strum their guitar strings.
It is both a blessing and a curse; as harsh as it is wise and as cutting as it is generous. It is the insightful deity that enables fledgling talents to ascend to the top of their mediums and the cold-hearted demon that fills them with self-doubt.
It guides the hands of writers and journalists, giving them the fuel to meet their deadlines, but it leaves them to cower behind their computers as their next assignments arrive.
It is both friend and foe to thespians and comedians, as it supports them on the stage but it shrouds them in despondency when the curtain falls again.
It abandons poets and sculptors as they beg for the muse to arise, leaving them alone in their misery before returning to work its magic at another time.
It is the entity that lets them feel emotions deeper as they experience life’s pleasures and pains, allowing them to see the sun shine brighter as they bask within its rays.
It is beautiful and callous, triumphant and cruel.
It is the tightrope of madness and genius that all creators walk.
It is the creative yin and yang.