Earlier in the summer, I was walking around my neighborhood with my earbuds on. Set on the far north part of the city of Chicago, Andersonville is a small, proud, tight-knit community that harkens back to a simpler time. Oak and maple trees line the streets, the brownstones and beautifully maintained houses (some over a hundred years old) display their gorgeous styles and characters, and people nod to you and offer you a good afternoon while they walk their pugs and labradors.
Suddenly, I felt a hunger to write.
I first concluded that it was my surroundings that made me feel this way, and in an attempt to make the feeling stronger, I paused my music and took out my earbuds to listen. A car horn broke the sleepy drone of a lawnmower in the distance. Behind me squealed the shouting chaos of kids playing in the park. An airplane hovered like a silver hawk in the sky. But the further I walked unplugged, the more I felt this hunger escape me.
What was it? I loved it! The negativity and doubt which was swirling around me that afternoon had suddenly lifted, and I felt inspired, motivated, courageous even. How could I channel this energy? How could I bottle up this feeling so that when I’m feeling this same doubt and frustration as a writer, I can unlock it? But then…where did this feeling come from?
It was then that I realized that it wasn’t where I was but what I was listening to that gave me this hunger. I had been listening to a random radio channel. I looked down to discover the artist:
Nica Libres at Dusk
Feel free to take a break from this post to listen here.
Howard’s melodic and droning vocals, the crescendo of verve and emotion as different instruments enter the song one by one, the dark but beautiful details of his lyrics—THIS IS SOMETHING, my spirit whispers to me like a friend smiling in the dark.
I love Ben Howard (in fact I discovered him while listening to yet another random radio station. I must do that more.). His songs have always put me in a good mood, so it was no surprise that when I listened to this song, I felt the same way as when I listened to ‘Evergreen’ or ‘Small Things’ from his first album. So I listened to ‘Nica Libres at Dusk’ on repeat for an hour and a half, walking and pondering what was that became for me a kind of umbilical cord to something bigger.
There were other bands and musicians that put me in this creative state. Music plays us for our emotions, and so some songs take us through the realms of our experiential memory, from happy and jolly to angry and headstrong to nostalgic and sombre. I decided to quickly flip through my library to find other instances of this feeling. It took all afternoon, and I eventually made a small playlist. From this research, I came up with the phrase, which summed up for me the feeling I felt that day while experienced not only Ben Howard and other music like his but also adjacent art forms to my own.
Creative resonance is what happens when you feel inspired to create. Something connects you to that higher level (whether you want to call it God or Muse or The Universe, etc.). While you are in creative resonance, you are in a state of heightened consciousness; and connected to it—just as you are connected to it when you truly flow in your writing—you are thrumming with the pure urge to create as our oldest ancestors did so very long ago, without ego or intention but simply a child-like state to discover and invent for the sole desire of it.
In other words, when I listen to ‘Nica Libres at Dusk’, I don’t feel the emotions and memories of what I feel with other songs in the same key or tone or volume, but feel the urge to produce something just like it with my own art form—to produce its beauty, to produce its complexity, to produce its emotion, and to produce its totality. Creative resonance is a state that urges you to create, not participate. You become the vehicle for the spirit of the piece that enters you; but since it speaks to you from an adjacent art form, it demands that you be creative, bold, and courageous. How can I write something like a song, I think. How can I write a novel like a Paul Klee painting? You can’t, not yet, and that’s the demand, that’s the adventure, that’s the struggle and that’s the excitement. This is how art forms are changed, this is how boundaries are broken. This is how art evolves.
Going back: that word ‘totality’ is a powerful word. There’s something utterly complete about looking at a work of art that speaks to us totally. One line erased, one phrase missing, one note silenced, and the whole work becomes poorer for it. Few artists have ever reached it, but we can all strive to get closer to it.
We all feel creative resonance. It urges you to create, but we must listen. Spend time with adjacent art forms and pay attention to the ones that whisper to you in the dark. Mark them and put them somewhere close. Whenever you are feeling doubt or frustration while you write, go to that book of paintings and turn to the page where you see the frail power of your poem arch its wings against the wind like the birds. Or put on that song that swirls and tumbles like you want your story to be. Or go to a dance recital or ballet, and notice how the dancers tell their own stories with a flick of the wrist or the bend of the back. You see, it’s not just the art forms themselves but the artists behind them that can inspire creative resonance in us. It’s there, you just have to find it.
By creating honest, passionate art, you inspire others.
And that, dear readers, is the subject of my next post.
Till next time, have a wonderful day.
Create and Complete!
Question: What particular piece of work resonates with you to make you want to write? I’d love to hear your responses below.