"The man who arrives at the doors of artistic creation with none of the madness of the muses would be convinced that technical ability alone was enough to make an artist. What that man creates by means of reason will pale before the art of inspired beings." Plato
With permission, I have pasted somthing written by Robert Genn for this posting. It seemed fitting after my last posting. (You can find a link to Genn's blog by scrolling down on the right of this page.) Enjoy!
Almost everyone has heard about J.M.W. Turner getting himself strapped to a ship's mast and taken out to sea in a wild storm. His rationale was the need for "authentic fear." Evidence of painting naked and eating raw beets just prior to creative activity have also been reported, but are a little more difficult to analyze. New research into historical muse-hunting suggests we ought to indulge and embrace our oddest inclinations.
Dame Edith Sitwell liked to lie in a coffin before starting her day's writing. Was it the feeling of privilege to be still above the grass, or was it something to do with the musky smell? The poet Friedrich Schiller kept rotten apples in his desk and inhaled them when he needed a shot of inspiration. In 1985, researchers at Yale University found that the smell of spiced apples empowered panicky people to stave off their panic attacks.
Amy Lowell and George Sand both smoked cigars in excess. The latter was also noted for going directly to her writing desk after making love. Coleridge without opium would have been a minor poet. No one can calculate the number of nicotine cigarettes that have been sucked into service. Balzac drank more than 50 cups of coffee a day, eventually dying unpleasantly from caffeine poisoning. Dr. Johnson, the dictionary writer, believed in drinking 25 cups of tea at a time. Voltaire used his lover's bare back as a desk. Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain and Truman Capote claimed they wrote best while lying down.
Going for a walk may not be that odd, but it's a muse-generator painters swear by. Music and muse are not an odd combination either, unless it be Cowboy in rotation. Mere repetition can be valuable--every time "Home on the Range" comes around it re-creates a mental state that gets the brush going.
"Whatever works" is more than the name of a Woody Allen movie. Artists need to canvas their history for habits, fetishes, peculiar activities or imbibings that worked in the past. Perhaps it's just part of the business of claiming your own uniqueness. But more often than not there's a genuine connection, perhaps going back to a dim childhood memory. Me? All I'm going to mention right now is my morning bathtub. Towel over my face, I ruminate the day ahead. Did I mention I like to be strapped in?