Clipped From Detroit Free Press
STRICTLY PERSONAL Mood Not Key to Creativity BY SYDNEY J. HARRIS "That was a most amusing piece you wrote the other day," remarked an acquaintance at lunch. "You must have been in a very good mood." I nodded, and turned to some other subject. As it happened, I remembered that day quite well and I had been in a terrible mood. My cold was worse, my plane was late, and my funds were low. One of the deep and un-fath om able mysteries o f the creative process (if I may use so pompous a phrase to describe my own little efforts) is that it seems to bear no direct and immediate relationship to one's mood or feeling, situation or circumstances, at the time. Most of Robert Louis Stevenson's endearing and amiable tales were written while he was writhing on a bed of pain. Some of Mozart's gay- Harris est and most felicitous melodies were composed while he was in the slough of despond, seriously ill, deep in poverty, utterly depressed. Glorious sonnets of exaltation have been written in prison, and rollicking comedies have come out of the most wretched personal conditions. IT IS too easy to say that the creative process acts as a compensation for reality, so that we use art to counterpoise the weight of life. For just as often, happy works are created in happy times, and tragic works in tragic times. What seems to be true, however, is that creation is largely a process of the unconscious mind, with the conscious holding only a light hand upon the reins. And just as a horseman with a heavy hand cannot get the most out of his steed, so an artist who tries too consciously to manipulate and direct this process finds himself stumbling to a halt. The only rule In the world of creating is that there is no rule. Some work best in one mood, some in another; some need the spur of failure, others the glow of success; some require stimulation, and others solitude; some respond to the pink of sunrise, others to the purple of twilight, and still others to the blackest midnight. Every writer, composer, painter, needs to "get in the mood"; and this is effected by various magical rites and incantations sharpening a certain number of pencils, eating apples, taking a long walk, drinking copious quantities of tea or coffee, or some equally absurd (and equally effective) preparation for the deep plunge into the unconscious for the buried treasure of the mind. But not the bad cold, nor the late plane, nor the low funds, can account for what is written or painted or composed at any given time. The forces here at'. work know nothing of such matters; they are busy translating the past into the future; and the present is quite forgotten when the dive begins.