I'm not a visual artist, but I had the urge to paint something today. Specifically, the rose petals I saw lying on the sidewalk. Brilliant pink, tapering to creamy white, they made me want to capture them in some permanent way.
Which got me thinking about the creative
urge. The world gives me rose petals, and I want to give rose petals
back. I see a rose petal and want to paint a rose petal. What is that?
Is it a generous impulse ("give rose petals back") or a selfish one? (Am
I trying to own the world, to make it mine?)
I've just finished
reading Sylvia Plath's journals, and the last section consists of
detailed descriptions of her neighbors in England: their illnesses and
flirtations, their children, their problems, their wallpaper, their
clothing, and what they served for tea. It's clear she used these as
exercises, practice in writing description, practice in observing. In
one entry, she chides herself for not paying closer attention to what
someone was wearing so that she could record it in her journal.
because she became famous, these anecdotes are now part of history: the
little annoyances and frictions between neighbors. There's a scene
where Plath is picking daffodils from her property to sell at the
market, to try to bring in some extra income, and she has a conversation
with a neighbor in which she believes the neighbor is angling for free
flowers. That scene struck me as so human. It plays out countless times
between neighbors, co-workers, family members--just replace "daffodils"
with any of a thousand other favors.
Probably nobody is safe around a writer: we are always taking notes.