Crippled, Demented, Or Crushed: Still, I Will Create

In a recent perusal of old journal entries, I once again ran across a poetic gem entitled Air and Light and Time and Space by Charles Bukowski (who was born in Germany, I learned via Wikipedia article). The poem describes the mindset of so many people who want to be creative — but then never “get around to” doing anything about it. Bukowski gives a definitive answer to what I’m calling “that self-delusional procrastination.”

You can Google the poem in its entirety elsewhere…but what I’m interested in right now is this part of Bukowski’s answer:

no baby, if you’re going to create
you’re going to create whether you work
16 hours a day in a coal mine
…in a small room with 3 children
…you’re going to create with part of your mind and your
body blown
you’re going to create blind

…baby, air and light and time and space
have nothing to do with it…

I feel as though I’ve spent most of my life in a desperate search for air and light and time and space. Most of the time, I haven’t even been aware of what I was seeking…but now, I look back at certain hard times in my life, and I find myself nodding in wry understanding. “Oh. I see now. That’s what that was.”

Those were the times I was most depressed. Those were the times I questioned my inherent worth the most. Those were the times nothing I attempted in life seemed to work out. Those were the times my relationships suffered the most. It all happened during those periods in my life when, for whatever reason, I suppressed my creativity because I felt as though I didn’t have the time, air, space, right to be creative.

I’ll talk more about this in future posts (and get deeper into the gritty tale of how I once believed and felt I had no right to be creative), but for now, I’m learning a new conviction: that Bukowski is oh so very right. It’s a lie that my situation has to change before I can be creative. I will make stuff. I will put stuff into this world that didn’t exist in that form before I made it. It’s what I’m created to do: to create. Even at my worst moments, when the will isn’t there, the compulsion is too strong to ignore.

I’ll create if I’m crippled. I’ll create if I’m demented. (This might already have happened.) I’ll create in the tiniest, most cramped space. I’ll create when it’s too dark to see. I can’t help it. I don’t want to help it.

Because the price for ignoring my creative impulse is far too high to pay.

10 thoughts on “Crippled, Demented, Or Crushed: Still, I Will Create

  1. Aaron Pogue says:

    There’s no way to overstate the importance of this idea. Just last night I was putting together some documents for the Consortium, trying to capture in writing the concept of a “Master Artist,” and it came down almost entirely to the ability to consistently make time to pursue your craft.

    Incidentally, the rest of it was a willingness to share the experience and teach others, which is exactly what you’re doing with this blog. You’re a role model for us all, Courtney. Thanks for sharing!

    • You’re welcome, Aaron! I’m in the middle of a grand creative recovery, and I’m well and truly into thinking of myself as a writer and an artist…but I never thought I could be a role model for any of this. It’s encouraging and humbling to know others are seeing me that way. Standing up in front of a class of students thrills me not in the least… But sharing my artistic experiences — successes and failures — in this venue? This, yes, this I think I can do. : )

      And incidentally, I cannot wait to read those Master Artist documents!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Courtney Cantrell, Courtney Cantrell. Courtney Cantrell said: Crippled, Demented, Or Crushed: Still, I Will Create — my latest blog post: […]

  3. Robert Goodrick says:

    Thank you for this!

    • You are quite welcome, Robert! Thank you for commenting. Apparently, the spam filter on the blog decided to filter your comment out, which is why I didn’t see it until today. Sorry about that, and I’ll try to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  4. I was born to create, too. But unlike you, I’ve never questioned (or ignored) that fact.

    I can’t describe in words how much it hurts my heart to hear about people who’ve had their creativity squelched (by self or others) for whatever reason. I think it hurts God’s heart, too.

    I’ve heard some of your story, and I want to hear all of it, but I know it’ll make me a little sad. I’m already melancholy just imagining what you’ve gone through during those non-creating periods.

    My husband (and family) understand full well what it means for me to have time to create. They know I can’t survive without it. It makes me a better person. A better wife. A better mother.

    • Becca, nowadays it hurts my heart, too. My heart aches for my past self and for the present selves of so many creatives out there who still believe their art isn’t worth pursuing. So far, my story has a happy ending, though…so when you hear it in its entirety, keep that in mind! There’s bright, warm, glorious sunshine beyond the veil of tears.

      And I think you’re very right: The squelching of creativity hurts the heart of God, too. “In the beginning, God created.” It’s the very first thing he tells us about himself. Once I realized that, the sense of empowerment to be creative was almost too great to describe. Now, it’s a light that guides me every day. : )

  5. […] After all…crippled, demented, or crushed: still, I will create. […]

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