Fueling the creative spark.

Lately, a topic percolating in my mind has to do with the question of how to keep the creative embers burning. I have some sense, as I enter into my fourth decade, that this is becoming more difficult.

I’ve mentioned in the past how, when I was in the midst of the lethargy and dizziness brought about by my labyrinthitis type symptoms, I underwent something of a creative surge. I was depressed, fatigued, and constantly anxious, but I also composed what is without doubt the most sophisticated music I’ve ever written (soon to be available on my upcoming CD release) while also writing what I think is some of my best acid logic material. I had a sense of an increased ability to connect disparate properties found in both music and writing; in terms of writing, I had an ability to chase tangential ruminations down labyrinthine mental corridors to their fruition (I’m not sure what that means either, but I like how it’s phrased.)

Now, two or three years later, the fatigue, dizziness and anxiety are largely gone. But so is a certain creative spark.

I don’t think it’s simply that the creativity followed the disappearing anxiety of illness off into the sunset. I think getting older is part of it too. There’s a certain cliché, though no less true for being cliché, that the hunger, desire and ability to achieve artistic success tends to diminish with age (I’m aware of the numerous exceptions to this, but as a general rule, I think it does stand.)

However, at least in terms of guitar playing, I actually think I’m becoming more finessed a player, and am increasing my technical mastery of the instrument. This reminds me of players I used to see up in the Americana scene in Los Angeles — guys in their 40s, 50s and 60s who were absolute masters of the instrument. However, as I look back on it, I realized there was very little risk or experimentation in their playing. You didn’t have the sense they were particularly excited by what they were doing, you did have the sense that they were playing riffs and solos and ideas they had played 1000 times before. Now, there was a certain advantage to this repetition — they were capable of playing these parts very well, and the audience rightfully took pleasure at that. But you didn’t get the sense that this performer was playing all that differently than they had five years previous, or would be five years in the future. And there’s something dead about that to me.

One can theorize about the neurological or hormonal reasons for this. As people get older, maybe they experience a decrease in neurotransmitters or hormones that fuel creativity. It’s an interesting area of exploration, but not directly pertinent here.

So the question becomes, how does maintain one’s youthful hunger for experimentation? Perhaps by studying the exceptions to the rule — the Picassos, the Beethovens? Perhaps by forcing a steady diet of novel stimulus into one’s brain? Perhaps by consuming vast amounts of LSD and cocaine? I’m not sure.

As a somewhat ironic way to end this, I should note that I wrote a piece wrestling with many of these very same issues close to 10 years ago. So maybe it’s just all in my head.

3 Responses to “Fueling the creative spark.”


  1. John Saleeby

    I’m funnier the Older I get. Like, these kids today with their tattoos! I don’t know if they’re people or Picassos! But let tell you, at my age it takes more time for me to get out of bed than to get a woman into bed! Thank you! Do I need a diaper? Depends! Get it? Depends! Fuck you! Goddam kids! When I was your age I was digging mass graves at Gettysburg! Depends! It’s a joke! You cocksuckers! Bring out that Singer with the big tits! I’m finished!

  2. Wil

    Actually, John, I have to say I’ve been fairly impressed at your ability to maintain your creative forces in your greatly advanced age. Doubtless, physically, sexually, you’re probably barely functional, but comedically you seem to be going strong.

  3. John Saleeby

    My brain has been removed from my skull and placed in a jar of fluid wired up to a device we call “The Comedy Machine”. My body is put to work pedaling to generate the electric current it runs on.