Creative Nirvana


I’m not sure why I chose to make creativity part of my self-image. I have to be honest and say that part of the motivation was that creativity was hot when I hit puberty and so I adopted the creative persona as a way of getting my share of sexual attention. My creative output during those years can only be described as pathetic, but it accomplished the mission of the moment.

I’m not sure when creativity morphed into something I had to do simply because I had to do it, instead of something I did with a specific outcome in mind. I know that it wasn’t during the period when I got the notion that I should “express myself,” for that only led to self-indulgent garbage that I find quite painful to read or hear to this day (note: my primary outlets are writing and music). The true creative urge never showed up when I wanted it, it crept into my life quietly, on soft slippers. One day it was there and I let it in.

This led to a few periods when I wrote some pretty decent music and one decent book. I enjoyed the experience but it still wasn’t half as good as sex (which is another creative zone altogether).

A couple of years ago, though, I had my first moment of creative Nirvana. It came when I was writing a song. Strangely enough, I had picked up my guitar in a thoroughly irritable mood that seemed miles away from the temper of an enlightened genius. I started playing and singing, the words and the chords pouring out as if I had known them before.

When I was finished, I bawled like a baby. For about twenty minutes. And I lived on the edge of laughter for days afterwards.

Since then I have had three other moments like that, most recently this past Saturday afternoon. When I reached the end of the work, I cried and cried and then felt clean and full of dance.

I cannot explain why different creative experiences yield different reactions and results. When I listen to the songs on my last CD, my favorite song is not one of the two that ended in creative Nirvana, so I can’t say this supreme emotional moment results in a supremely compelling outcome. It has nothing to do with genre: two of the moments emerged from songwriting, one from prose and one from graphic arts. I have thought about how the experience compares to the other moments that cause me to cry, many of which have to do with watching a film or hearing a story about how someone has defied the odds. I am not convinced there is a correlation, but it might mean that I have come to view creativity as something that is the outcome of a struggle. The problem with that theory is that the experiences in question have felt relatively effortless.

Whatever the reason, these are cherished moments that I appreciate all the more because I can never anticipate their arrival and I love the lightness I feel when they depart.