Already tumblr has acquired a strange place in the mechanics of my life; I keep logging in and bumbling into my dashboard with every good intention of making a post and making it interesting but getting distracted by the endless colorful parade of images and tidbits of information scrolling over the screen. It was perhaps not my most shining moment of decision-making when I elected to put Twitter on my tumblr feed. In part I understand the fascination, now, but the flash bulb light images of other peoples’ lives is starting to clutter up my mind.
Last night the drunken monkey was going full tilt. After half an hour or better of annoying my husband with my high-energy antics while he was trying to sleep, I finally put my headphones in and let my mind off of its leash. Mostly I just tried to keep up as it cavorted all over the place.
I recently bought a new album by an artist I’ve been following for a long time. It’s a departure from his normal efforts—indeed, from his normal ensemble—but despite the fact that I can all-too-often have a simian fear response to things like Change, I really like it. Thus in liking it, I found myself looking over interviews and other material directly or tangentially related to the creation of the album, and discovered that a lot of the songs on it were the product of inspiration from what he’d been reading at the time. In essence, the words and stories had moved through the filter of his mind and become songs.
And then I looked at my own writing projects, one of which has been more or less this same idea, but in the reverse—and with said artist’s work, no less, how terribly strange; that is, taking the sounds and fury of a different album and running it through my own mental filtering processes to come up with stories and essays which are in some cases wholly unrecognizable as the children of their parent products.
It got me to wondering. Maybe that old, painfully trite adage is true. There is nothing new. But maybe that’s all right. There’s nothing wrong with it, because at the same time, everything is new. Somewhere, some time long forgotten, there was a spark of inspiration, of motion, whatever. And someone took that and ran with it and came up with something brilliant, and showed it to someone else, who ran with it further down the track, so on and so forth, until it’s Nietzsche, then Quicksand, then Le Grotesque, then some painting that doesn’t exist yet…further and further down the lines and patterns of human ingenuity.
Those of us who do art are only, then, the latest runners in a race that’s been going on since the dawn of consciousness. It’s a relay race of amazing complexity; I have several batons already, I am constantly accepting them or handing them off. I never know where I will lose one or gain one but I can’t let myself stop running, even on those days where I am feeling weak or ineffective or like I don’t belong in the race at all. Sometimes our hands are empty. Sometimes our hands are full. But always we are in the race.
I feel like I’m not expressing this well enough at all, but in my mind the image is beautiful. I’m hardly the first person to think of the world as united by common threads, but making the analogy—or reality—fine-tuned to myself feels like something of an accomplishment, even if it’s a small one. Like matter, I suppose, creative energy is neither…well..created…or destroyed. It moves through us, passes from palm to palm and lips to lips as artist touch each other through their works, let their minds flow through words and notes and brushstrokes and light filters to settle as afterimages inside other minds.
We’re all connected. Or we’re all paradoxical Russian stacking dolls.
Either way, I feel much less ashamed about my own creative processes now. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.