“Living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland, is what makes poets write and artists create. It is like a cactus needle embedded in the flesh.”
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua,
If creativity is like a cactus needle in the flesh, I presume she meant by that that it is something that must come out, sooner or later, no matter what. A cactus needle hurts when you press it, and festers if you leave it. Not an attractive image, but apt!
The idea of the creative process as birth is more familiar .There is the image of conception, of something growing , unseen until it is ready to emerge into the light of day. Again, there is an urgency, an inevitability at getting it out. Maybe the creative process can also be brought forth too soon, and needs to be nurtured – put in intensive care even, before it is ready to be taken ‘home’.
There is a common belief that an artist must suffer in order to be creative, and that if life is flowing too sweetly, no poems, songs or pictures will be generated – or none worth having. Maybe it’s true that the artist or poet must have gone through some experience of grief, exclusion or trauma in order to have the creative urge. But given that background of suffering that allows for a different viewpoint, must one necessarily continue to suffer? Does getting one’s shit together spell the end of a creative life?
I don’t believe so – although the tenor of what one creates must necessarily change.
If art making is a therapeutic activity (and it is), then one will grow and change because of that process – and also move on from whatever problem started it. Even if the same old issue is driving the art, it must be from a fresh perspective and bring new light. Some creatives can be intensely and unconsciously driven, and for them the matter may not be resolved through their art. For myself, I hope that a creative life leads me to a fresh understanding of myself, if not life, the universe and every thing.
And if the products of my creative life bring some joy to others, then that’s a bonus.
I do not write poetry;
Poetry writes itself through me.
It becomes what it is
In spite, as much as because of me.
In the same way I birthed my children:
Though I sought them
They came of their own volition,
And they became what they are
Despite and because of me,
Just as poems do.