The Relationship Between Hunger and Creativity

Living mushroom art

Photo ©2015 Shanti Singleton

A friend and I were discussing hunger. This was some time ago, so I hope he will forgive the artistic liberties my memory has taken with his phrasing. 

“The problem with being a wealthy artist” says he, “is that you stop being hungry. Not that actual starving is good for creating much.” he added thoughtfully. “You’re too focused at that point on food itself. But when you’re not at all concerned about where your next meal is coming from it takes the pressure off. You can create when you feel like it, not because if you don’t you won’t eat next week.”

I nodded, thinking it over. “It seems like the best place to be if I follow your logic is the point where hunger is nipping at your heels but hasn’t quite caught up to you yet.” My friend flashed a grin at me, pleased that I was following along, and added “Of course there are exceptions, there are always exceptions. But it does seem to be true that fewer great creations happen after an artist gets comfortable than before.”

I’ve come back to this conversation over the years, mulling it over and looking at my own life. I’ve come to the conclusion that hunger can be metaphorical. That in fact for me, loneliness is a fluttering ravenous moth that sometimes breeds and swarms. When I am feeling totally safe and loved and understood and accepted my need to create drops significantly. When that moth is fluttering in the shadows I create company for myself in songs and stories and paintings. But then I want to share it with someone real, and the moth gets more persistent so I make something else to distract myself and so it goes. 

As an artist, plenty of solitude suits me. As a person who quite enjoys not feeling lonely, I desperately miss the company of the ones I can just relax and be all of myself around. And yet, when I have that and months go by where I create nothing at all, I begin to fret and worry that I’ve lost whatever it was I had. 

Right now I’ve a moth or two fluttering in the shadows. There are people I’m beginning to miss fiercely. But I’m writing like I haven’t written in years, and I’m not in a hurry for that to stop. Nearly an album in a week. And most of them are keepers. It becomes its own hunger after awhile, to create and keep creating. 

I keep looking for that balance point. The place between starvation and total comfort and the more I understand the nature of balance and apply it to myself, the more I realize that it may not be a point so much as a tiny pendulum. Perhaps the shifting in and out of comfort is needed. Times to rest and be cared for and times to create without ceasing. 

On the upside if I ever do become one of those rare wealthy musicians, I don’t think that will impact my creativity terribly much. I might not worry about my next several meals, but I’ll have a traveling roof over my head and I’ve yet to find a way to keep a moth or two from getting inside. 

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