The Agony of the Artistic Temperament

                                                          by Nancy Snipper

Have you ever been told you have an artistic temperament?

Vincent Van Gogh, Schumann, Beethoven and poet, Sylvia Plath (top to bottom).
Is this a compliment or a softly delivered insult? I can remember being told by my mother that I was different, that I didn’t see the world as others did, that writing poetry at the age of nine was not an activity most pursued with élan, even if it would earn you a gold star from your teacher.
The fact is, I was kind of a word nerd, a dreamy escapist who felt my way as the only way, and the condition worsened when I discovered Herman and the Hermits. Great! Now I could travel across the Mercy, get inspired write poetry and then put the words to music. I could become a lyric goddess, inspired by the water under the ferry I was riding!
My imagination seemed to control most of my life. Even when I had my tonsils out, I woke up and began writing a poem about darkness. Heavens to Betsy, what was happening to me?
One day when my turtle died and I cried for a week, my mother sat down to explain that I had an artistic temperament. I felt rather happy to hear this, because I didn’t understand what this meant, but I found the phrase to be poetically pleasing to the ear. I immediately began writing little verses whose words rhymed with ‘ment’ – ‘bent’, ‘lent’ and ‘sent‘could fit nicely into a 4-line verse. Then I became really excited with the word ’resent’. It was secretly aimed at people in my teens who did not accept my ‘artistic temperament’.
Later on in life, I began to see that I was overly sensitive to people’s joking about me. In fact, I was an emotional dragon, spewing out invectives against the world in my poetry and the world.not even a diva. I had achieved nothing, so there was no justification for that title. I just had a lot of ideas that wanted to be expressed in poetry and music.
Now decades later, I am proud to say I no longer have that artistic temperament, where the universe where my feelings and thoughts were all that mattered.
Working with other artists as an interviewer and collaborator on projects I began to see that some artists lack a connection to the real humdrum very necessary aspects to daily living. Many of the people I interviewed seemed to live in an altered state and in a different reality from the one I and most other face every day. Getting up, feeling aches and pains, going to work, struggling with traffic, getting annoyed by a co-worker who did not want to do his fair share of a teaching project, even feeling bored and turning on the sleep tube (TV).
So what was it that changed me?
Maturity I hope, and the fascination I have with others rather than myself as a writer, observation is tantamount to the craft. Meeting a new person or catching up with a friend you haven’t seen for a while is like unwrapping a new gift - surprises galore. Everyone is an exclusive package, and even if they have that artistic temperament which to me translates as picky-picky, inability to laugh at one’s weakness, sensitive to every comment made or dodgy in responsibility (this may not be your take on the term), I find this über fascinating.
Take the composer Mahler: he totally disallowed his wife to pursue her musical career as a composer. He insisted that she must remain subservient to him and that, as his muse, her role was to be present and supportive of his moods. He guarded his artistic temperament, putting his creativity above his marriage.
Plato said that artistic temperament is divine madness. Freud called it a dark angel of destruction. Psychiatrists have noted that many great artists suffer from a deep neurosis that can result in self destructive behavior: Vincent Van Gogh, Schumann, Beethoven and poet, Sylvia Plath.
                                                                   Sigmund Freud
An artistic temperament can work for you though. It is the driving force behind all those obsessive creative ideas that won’t leave you alone until you make them real. So next time someone tells you that you have an AT, say thank you and get on with that new thing you want to bring to life.

Also posted on / Aussi attesté sur : SMR Cultureplus

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