Does anybody REALLY want to read about ‘happiness’?
In an attic room, somewhere in South Yorkshire, a year ago, I could write for hours. Endless streams of brain babble, which I would then tidy up and turn into pieces of prose that read fairly well. I did this sat in a bed full of tissues, dirty cups, staleness. I did it unwashed, bleary eyed, I was thoroughly miserable.
Now I am in a much better head space, I can’t write anything of merit.
My mind feels empty, where it used to swarm with dreadful, violent cruelties. I go to the supermarket and buy dinner for myself and my partner, I ride my bike in the sunshine, I smile when I walk to get a coffee. I cannot conjure up the same creative madness as I could when I was in the throes of mental illness. I do not have the same pulsing urge to write and explain and tell stories, that buzzing gnat in my brain has disappeared for the first time in my life.
It feels somewhat unfair, that I have to choose between creative disease and happiness, but nobody really wants to read anything written by a happy person, do they?
Humans delight in violence, adulterous affairs, addiction, mistreatment of others. We escape the so-so by watching a Tarantino movie, we wait for the blade, head roll and crimson spray and feel immediately sated. We love watching people finding their spouses in bed with their bosses, and we need all this to believe someone out there is living a far more reckless and vivid life than we are, all from the comfort of our own homes, with our good intentions and early nights.
Happiness is boring, because happiness feels finite. Happiness is the end goal which we all strive for, without knowing what it actually looks like. Happiness is sold to us as a glowing yellow ball and old people holding hands on a park bench after years of conflict free marriage. If happiness is represented as small moments like salting the rim of a margarita glass or kissing your kids, can’t we erase the word ‘happy’ and replace it with merely ‘feeling good’?
History has led us to believe that mental illness is the essence of organic creativity. The Greek’s held the belief that being artistic was born out of some divine madness. Edvard Munch was said to have claimed his mental illness was ‘the driving force’ of all his work, the trope of the tortured artist came from endless historical accounts of people creating bodies of work as a way to express and expel their demons.
Next time I hit a bad spell and feel ultimately rotten, I’ll come back to this and try and remember that occasionally, for creative purposes, bad is better.