Sept. 12, 2023

Sisyphus and Creativity

Sisyphus and Creativity

Ponder Sisyphus.

Doomed to push a massive boulder up a steep hill, only to have it roll down again.

Every time.

Every. Time.

What’s that got to do with creativity?

First: Creativity is hard work. It may seem easy, and we may pretend it is easy to massage our egos, but deep down all artists know that creativity is hard. It strains and stresses us, which is why we often elect to avoid doing what we most want to do: create.

Second: It requires persistence. Creativity is not truly rewarding in terms of results if one simply “waits for it to happen.” Those other Greeks, the Muses, do not flitter by often unless courted, and by “courted” I mean every day, with discipline and determination. Then they release the full splendor of creative rewards, in both quantity and quality.

Third: The effort is the process. Creativity is not a goal. It is not found at the top of the hill, but in the journey to the top.

Fourth: Pushing the boulder, struggling into and within the process, creates the tension that unleashes creative power. The farther up the hill you push, the more energy is released.

Fifth: The energy released is fleeting. Hours of effort can yield moments of true inspiration. These must be harnessed, captured, anchored to further efforts so that the process becomes a tad easier over time. Sisyphus cannot capture any of that energy: that is his punishment.

Sixth: Limitations are key to the process. Sisyphus has one boulder, one hill, one task. He cannot simply alter the boulder for a feather pillow, the hill for a valley, and the task for sloth. His choice is only to do and continue doing. Creativity in unfettered situations is dissipation, but when channeled into a narrower path, much more can be done.

Seventh: The task, this creative process, is eternal. Anyone wanting to be an artist must accept this truth as their inspirational burden for life. The boulder rolling down the hill is not failure because creativity has no endpoint. The whole purpose is to make the best use of time, to focus the mind and let it exert itself to its utmost in order to achieve the sweet feeling of release, not as a loss, but as the very essence of what separates the artist from the mundane: the willingness to be a Sisyphus, a force rather than a rock.