They wait, or they repress. But once born an artist, you’re always an artist. This is a personal story.
Music has always been a trigger for me. “Trigger”, these days, has a negative connotation. But, in my case, music has always triggered a deep desire to create. Music is the ‘on switch’. Tonight, while listening to Fleche Love, the switch was tripped and I went down memory lane in my head. I traveled back to Montreal, to my heydays of creation. What happened? Why did I stop? I have a lot of explanations for “why”, including the fact that the process of creation – while it’s beautiful and intense – also provokes a sense of recklessness in me.
See, there’s something that people who aren’t artists don’t understand. The act of creation, the impetus to create, generates a sort of high that can’t even be described with words. I used to think that science was close to art. Sure, the process of exploration is similar, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that the creation of art is more closely related to the adrenaline rush of hitting a punching bag or going for a long run. Runners recognize this as the “runner’s high”. Competitive athletes can probably recall moments during competition when they couldn’t hear their coach’s yell, when it felt like time traveled in slow-motion. The creative process feels a lot like that. It’s like a substance within us that takes over, a substance not that different from a stimulant (and I suppose it’s no wonder several artists have turned to alcohol or heroin to tame their demon).
So, what does it feel like when you’re an artist that has stopped? Well, it doesn’t feel like a stoppage at all. It feels more like waiting. Patiently waiting. There’s a Portuguese word, “saudade”, that describes an immense longing and a sense of mourning. I suppose that’s what it feels like when you can’t call on the muse or even access her anymore. That is, it feels that way until the music plays. To be honest, you know what it feels like right now? It feels like being a carpenter without any tools. A carpenter doesn’t cease being a carpenter when he doesn’t have tools. He just longs for the feeling of timber between his hands.
I’m not sure what it is that I’m longing for. Collaboration, perhaps. Peace, more space, more time. It just isn’t right yet. Not yet. And that’s the real bitch about creation: you can’t force it. You can’t take it out of you and produce something mediocre and hope it goes away. You can’t wish the right conditions. Sure, if you’ve made it a vocation, there are ways to manipulate your circumstances in a way that favour creativity. But when it’s not an immediate priority in your life, you have to wait. And it doesn’t matter what kind of artist you are, if you’ve had even some modicum of success, the thought that’s always on your mind is, “will they forget me?”. They might. Some won’t. But the truth of the matter is this: you can’t forget yourself. If you’re an artist, you will always be an artist, even if you’re not producing at this very moment. Even if you try something new. Even if you work as hard as you can to repress who you really are. The thing is, that’s with you for life. Like it or not.