Photo Credit: Jennie Anne Benigas



February 2016

“You forget everything, you are almost insane, everything inside you trembles and writhes, you scarcely manage to set down sketches, one idea presses upon another.” Pytor Illich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), from Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.




Tchaikovsky and His Boundless Bliss

Dear Reader,

Mason Currey’s book continues to be a source of delight. John and I read an entry a day, following breakfast. I often think: “Thank goodness these artists wrote about their creative process or at least submitted to being interviewed.” I become very excited when one of my favorite artists, such as Tchaikovsky, comes up. His symphonies and concertos are part of my DNA, but the strongest threads are his ballet scores. Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, and Serenade for Strings are among my go-to studio CDs. Several paintings have his name in the title. Honestly though, if I never hear The Nutcracker again, I won’t be sad.

I noticed that artists revert to metaphors in order to describe how the work gets done, and the most frequent source is botany. Tchaikovsky said, “The seed of a future composition usually reveals itself suddenly, in the most unexpected fashion. If the soil is favourable – that is, if I am in the mood for work, this seed takes root with inconceivable strength and speed, bursts through the soil, puts out roots, leaves, twigs, and finally flowers.” It reminds me of warm summer days, after a rain, when you can almost hear the plants growing.

In The Wild Braid, poet Stanley Kunitz explained it this way: “The garden is…the cosmos in miniature, a condensation of the world that is open to your senses…Every cultivated plot of ground is symbolic of the surprises and ramifications of life itself in all its varied forms, including the human.”

Both artists described the creative process using familiar terms. Tchaikovsky went further and said, “It would be futile for me to try and express to you in words the boundless bliss of that feeling which envelops you when the main idea has appeared, and when it begins to take definite forms.” He then revealed a deeper level of experience, which I chose as this month’s opening quotation. Please return to the beginning and savor his words, as I did that day after breakfast.

This frenzied and true rendering of what can happen in the midst of working explains the indescribable energy, and why I sometimes forget to breathe. Is it a constant state (of bliss, of frenzy)? No. When Inspiration visits, the length of her stay needs to be long enough to deliver, but short enough to leave me with the strength to function in the everyday world.