Friday, January 11, 2013

"A Season of Despair"

Another great essay from Timothy Egan:

In early winter, when the heavy rains come to the Pacific Northwest and we settle under a blanket of sullen sky, something stirs in the creative soul. At the calendar’s gloaming, while the landscape is inert, and all is dark, sluggish, bleak and cold, writers and cooks and artists and tinkerers of all sorts are at their most productive.

At least, that’s my theory. As a lifelong resident of a latitude well to the north of Maine, I’ve come to the conclusion that creativity needs a season of despair. Where would William Butler Yeats be if he nested in Tuscany? Could Charles Dickens ever have written a word from South Beach? And the sun of Hollywood did much to bleach the talents out of that troubled native of Minnesota, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

… Seattle…Paris…Dublin…What these cities share, in addition to long winter nights, is a large and active creative class. Countless Americans (and innumerable French artists and writers) have done their best work under la grisaille, as Parisians call their leaden ceiling. Ireland surely has more good writers and dramatists per capita than any country in the world. And in Seattle, you can’t walk outside for a snort of espresso without bumping into a newly published novelist who finally finished the tortured tome after escaping from somewhere with too much distracting sun.


One must have a mind of winter, in the words of poet Wallace Stevens, to be productive in the cold season.

What waits at the other extreme, of course, are June days of 10 p.m. sunsets, gardens on photosynthetic hyper-drive and very little work on the interior side. Thus, there’s an urgency to these January hours; with each lengthening day, each additional few ticks of daylight, we lose time in the creative well.
Read the whole wonderful essay here:

Egan, Timothy. “The Longest Nights.” The New York Times, January 10, 2013.

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