This place of which you say ‘It is a waste’
There shall be heard again the voice
Of mirth, and the voice of gladness
There’s not much moon tonight. So Masha has given us this question:
Moonlight is dangerous, but beautiful, essential for artistic dreamings, which is why, this week, in the darkness of the moon, I’m bringing the discussion over to the lack of dreams. What happens when the artist looses sight of the moon and flounders for awhile?
I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’ve lost sight of the moon or of dreams, when I’m afraid I have nothing to say and nothing to create, I try to create things. Like a Happy Haggis:
Since this Haggis is Happy, we can presume it survived Burns day, and has another year to roam peacefully and free in the Tesco wilderness, before it’s poached by drunken poetry enthusiasts, and goes boom. Haggises always go boom. That’s just part of being a haggis. That looks like this:
This haggis doesn’t seem to know this about haggises. It’s smiling.
Surprisingly, other authors have different ideas about what to do when there are no more ideas. Masha explains:
Some must "stay drunk on writing so that reality cannot destroy you" (Ray Bradbury), others insist that "One ought only to write when one leaves a piece of one’s own flesh in the inkpot" (Lev Tolstoy). I can’t say I fall into either camp. Unfortunately, I’ve too many things to do each day to stay drunk on anything – writing, or vodka, or wine, and I would never get anything written if my flesh had to be included in it all
Bradbury and Tolstoy certainly can’t be accused of incessant good cheer, but then one would assume they know a bit about writing. These statements, though, strike me as meaningless. If one has really left a bit of flesh in the inkpot—or, the modern equivalent, got one’s fingers stuck in a keyboard—it’s probably better to call the doctor than write a novel.
And, like Masha, I don’t find writing terribly intoxicating. Mesmerising, yes. But there has never been an instance when too many rounds of drafting short stories has prompted me to actually use the karaoke machine.
The idea behind these quotations—that an must be wholly, utterly, entirely an author, that an author writes from a deep place of passion and love—that cannot be taught. It is or it isn’t, and that’s all.
So Rilke seems a bit closer to the mark when he says
to be an artist meant: not to reckon and count, to ripen like the tree which does not force it’s sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without fear lest no summer might come after.
With Rilke, as with Benjamin, I always get the sense that he’s whistling in the dark. It seems to be the dread of nightfall in winter without a star that makes him proclaim that summer is sure to follow; it seems a fierce self-reckoning that makes him declare an artist should ripen, not count.
This creative desperation seems in itself a fertile ground for an artist can take root. The challenge any artist is not to be too afraid in the dark, moonless nights, to learn to welcome winters, and doubts and questioning. To find and love the hidden lights of winter, the darkest nights of stillness and starlight. To learn to whistle in the teeth of despair.
After all, we only say the moon drives lovers and dreamers mad because they’re laughing.