The Very Witching Time of Night

By a route obscure and lonely,
Haunted by ill angels only,
Where an Eidolon named Night,
On a black throne reigns upright,
I have reached these lands but newly
From an ultimate dim Thule -
From a wild clime that lieth, sublime,
Out of Space - out of Time.

Dreamland, E.A. Poe

I used to wonder what it was about the great artists that drove them so batty. Every single one of them, it seems, was either disturbed or depressed or insane. It makes people leery about being "artistic." Who would want to be pigeon-holed with that crowd?

I still don't know what it was about those men (mostly men, but some women too) that drove them so crazed. Was it, as the Green Lady of Perelandra said, that living under the naked spread of Deep Heaven drives man's mind to madness? Is it his pursuit of the Muses, his unrequited love for beauty, that makes him so unnatural? Is it his very Godlessness, his lack of any moral foundation as he pokes among spirits of a different sort? Is it his looking for that which he does not know that makes him mad? I still don't know. And quite possibly I don't want to know. But I do know that the passion that can take an artist of any medium can be almost too much to bear. I am thankful to have that firm foundation, to be able to look at Deep Heaven and not fear it, to know what lies back of all the beauty in the world. I have the rudimentary beginnings of a sound mind. But I am an artist - I'm a time-traveller, a conjurer, an instrument that I am trying to tune and play at the same time. Like Scrooge I feel immaterial and silent as the grave passing through histories and images, scraps of song, lines of poetry and prose, anxious above all else to take them in and share them with others but feeling so helpless to do so. I am an artist and it's tiring.

I've begun a new novel, as you know: Plenilune. It came on me with an unsporting but necessary suddenness and I have been thinking about it almost constantly, running with it for all I am worth, afraid that if I slow down I will lose momentum and drive. I'm prone to laziness, a trait that a writer cannot afford. I haven't always been writing, but I have been thinking and thinking and thinking. I feel like my poor centurion Amadeus.

"My Lord Count, this past year and over a year I have thought for Britain and I have fought for Britain. Now let you see to affairs of state, and let me bury my British dead."

I am not a good sleeper. I am by nature very high-strung and tense - I associate myself rather closely with Ginger of Black Beauty fame. Most nights I am combating the aching tension in my neck and shoulders that my personality inflicts, which doesn't bode well for a good night of sleep. Plenilune has thrown into that mix a mind moving so quickly that I swear you can hear it hum. I can usually find a calming image, such as a cat curled up asleep (is there anything more comfortable than a cat curled up asleep?) and, focusing on that, I can wander off hand in hand with Morpheus until about three in the morning. Not so the past several nights. My mind has been given an involuntary flogging and has been running flat out through the long dark hours of night wherein there is nothing else to do but lie away and stare at the ceiling, thinking and thinking and thinking until I feel close to going mad. At the time I write this my cup of tea stands empty, having barely nicked the groggy muddle in my head; my plate of breakfast-lunch stands almost eaten; the mellow glow of my lamp mingles with the rainy atmosphere outside my window. I am tired, overrun by my own story, and I am barely out of the starting gate with it. This is what it is like, being an artist, I suppose.

I hope there is some method in this madness. I have said before, it is not all tiresome. I am a cross gingersnap when I don't have a quarry to chase. I am glad for Plenilune; heck, I'm of proud of Plenilune! Maybe it is not method, maybe it is more madness, but as a "creative person" I am not happy without this grueling work. For whatever reason the "great" artists went mad, I imagine "thinking God's thoughts after Him" is apt to drive a man rather mad too.

Seems I've imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God's holy wisdom is foolish to man
He must have seemed out of His mind
God's Own Fool, Michael Card

And, in my small way, that is what I am doing. So here I am, tired, crazed, full of my plots and characters and countrysides and wanting badly either a nap or a hot bath. Welcome to my life.

4 ripostes:

  1. How strange - I just read the first chapter of I Corinthians last night. Please to give me back my brain.

  2. As a writer and an uptight person who has trouble sleeping and finds it impossible to relax tense shoulders, I hereby agree and sympathize with every word of this post.

    I shall pray for your good sleep and the abatement of stress, Jenny dear. :)

  3. For any and all prayers I am always grateful. I have taken a bath, and a nap (always take both, if it can be helped) and after a session of typing I feel a bit better, though I still feel as if I stare dumbly at the world out of a-goggle eyes, not really taking anything in properly.

    Can't be helped. My brain is dead, so I need to use someone else's.

  4. Though I don't flatter myself at all, in any way, I do believe in me there is the beginning of the very kind of artist you speak of. Sometimes I feel my head will explode with all the thoughts - and thoughts of thoughts - that will open themselves to my mind; with all the unpenned stories that force their hearts upon me, demanding to be written. Living with a mind that seems never to stop - I believe that's where my clumsiness comes from: my mind is never, ever on what I'm doing - is tiring.

    And as lately I've had little sleep, I can sympathize with your lack of rest. >.>