Sharing n' Caring

Happy Birthday Anais Nin, & A Note on the Burden of Creative Impulse

anais nin

In honor of the homie Anais Nin, she of the most meticulous and romantic journal-keeping, who was born on this day in 1903, I thought I’d share my favorite journal entry of hers, from Volume Three of The Early Diary of Anais Nin (written between 1923 and 1927). The short entry tackles that difficult-to-describe misery of the creative mind when it feels it has failed to fulfill its self-imposed quota of creation, a setback I often wrestle with. Inspiration eludes me, words don’t come out the way I had hoped, ideas don’t add up or make sense, and it can truly ruin my day. I am admittedly uptight–it is endlessly difficult for me to relax, and to let such natural imperfections slide. So, it was with a perverse sense of joy that I realized, through Nin’s words, that I wasn’t alone–that other people feel suffocated by what they often lack creatively, and by the daily ambitions they fail to consummate. So many of my friends appear to deal with this problem in a way that is much more ideal than my doom-and-gloom mindset, one that convinces me one unproductive day will render all days ahead of me unproductive. When I try to switch off, say by watching a television show, or going out for drinks and some mindless conversation, I am usually waging an interior battle against voices telling me that I’m wasting time that could be better spent on work. Everyone else, on the other hand, seem to indulge and revel in these moments…as they should, and as I am constantly trying to do myself. Sometimes I succeed, but it’s a struggle, and in those moments, I am often reminded of Anais Nin’s final line in this entry…

March 30th, 1925

There are so many things I hate in myself–the apathetic moods which follow a long and tense period of activity. Today I could not write, I could not read with pleasure, because there were so many practical little things I should have been doing instead. Ugly weakness which attacks the imagination and the will. All afternoon, after walking down with my Love and visiting some hotel rooms, I sat in the apartment, sluggishly appalled and oppressed by the darkness of it, and by the darkness within me. As Christopher Morley says in one of his wonderful articles for the Literary Review, “. . . to readers who have never been held and sickened by the whirling emptiness of an artistic problem, who have never carried in their hearts the dead faggots of a dream that could not be ignited. . .”

An accidental glance over the book reviews gave me the first feeling; an effort to rouse myself by handling my work gave me the second feeling. And now it is too late. My Love is about to come home, and I have nothing out of this long day, nothing sparkling to offer him with my homecoming kiss.

All days, I suppose, cannot be rich and beautiful. You cannot make a habit of creation. But surely, one should be alive every day, at least alive, if not productive. I am puritanically ashamed of laziness, and I sometimes wish I had never acquired this conscience, for I could then enjoy idleness as a natural state of the soul. 

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