Although this is a philosophical article about creative works (and creativity) in general, I’m going to have to start by talking about one of my many favourite musicians for a while. There’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.
A while back, I was watching random things on Youtube when I happened to stumble across this short highlight reel from Suzanne Vega’s “Carson McCullers Talks About Love” again. This was a musical play that Suzanne Vega wrote and performed in New York in 2011 and, from the highlight reel, it sounds really interesting. So, naturally, I took a quick look online to see if there was a soundtrack CD to it or a DVD of it.
There wasn’t. Apart from the highlight reel on Youtube and a few reviews online, there seems to be no record of it’s existence. This was a play that probably involved months of writing and yet it only existed for a couple of months several years ago in a city over three thousand miles away from me. It was this wonderfully interesting thing, and yet there is no real record of it.
And, well, this made me think about permanence and creativity. One of the great things about creating anything is wondering how long it will last. With things like art and writing, they’re meant to last. They’re meant to be able to be enjoyed at any time and, if they’re any good, then they’ll still be enjoyed decades or centuries in the future.
To paraphrase and misquote a brilliant line from Neil Gaiman’s “Death: The Time Of Your Life”, making things is a way of leaving your mark on the wall in the hope that people will see it long after you are gone.
All of this makes me wonder why someone would pour so much effort into something that would only exist for a few months in just one theatre and then never exist again.
I guess that, with making some things, the appeal isn’t that the results will last for generations – but the actual experience of making it.
I mean, when you’re feeling inspired, then the actual process of writing, making art etc… is an amazing thing in and of itself. When you have a creative idea that demands to be made form, then making it is an almost spiritual experience in and of itself. Likewise, once you’ve finished, you feel a sense of accomplishment that doesn’t depend on how many people will ever see what you’ve made.
Plus, thinking about it, I guess that permanence is often a lie that many creative people (including myself) tell themselves in order to feel more valuable and prestigious. And, yes, with solitary things (like writing, making art, making comics etc…), you need all of the motivation that you can get. So, sometimes, this lie is necessary.
I mean, a while back, I ended up making an entire 7-8 page comic in just two days. This was one of those “inspired” projects that I just had to make. Yes, I like to daydream about this comic eventually being considered part of the “canon” of everything I’ve ever made. But, honestly, in twenty years’ time – or even in five years’ time- it will probably have been forgotten by everyone except myself.
Very few things that people make are ever remembered in the distant future. For every Shakespeare, there were probably hundreds of other playwrights who have been lost to the mists of time.
But, even if virtually nothing is actually permanent, the idea of permanence is an essential part of being creative. It’s the thing that motivates us, it’s the thing that actually makes us feel like artists and writers, rather than just eccentric people who scribble, daub paint, type things on a keyboard and/or draw symbols on pieces of paper.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂