On The Mammoth Loneliness Of Being Creative
A long time ago, when woolly mammoths were a big thing, loneliness was an important feeling that existed to remind us that it isn't safe to be away from the tribe. It beat at our chests and heads, warning us that pain is out there, a loss is out there, even death, perhaps from one of those pesky and clumsy woolly mammoths or some other dangerous mega-fauna.
But as we have evolved, we still have that sense of loneliness, even though the threat of death by mammoth is now slim to none.
Loneliness is at epidemic proportions, with studies now saying it's worse for you than smoking or drinking, raising your stress levels and causing inflammation in the body, which in turn manifests into all sorts of serious illness, even death.
So now the fear of the woolly mammoth is the actual feeling of loneliness. What was once a warning sign of danger, is now the danger in and of itself.
I don't think there is a greater loneliness than that of the creative person. You can spend days not speaking to anyone. You can miss phone calls or put out stern messages that you will not be available to sup or dance with until you meet your deadline. No exceptions! All these self-imposed rules exist so we can meet our desire to create and obey the muse that stalks within us. We self-punish to please what yearns to be let out of our minds and fingers, and this is for the term of our natural life.
Then, just like a dream, you then wake and realise everyone has gone dancing without you, and you are alone with the woolly mammoth of loneliness as your only company.
But not everyone is afraid of, or even dislikes their mammoth. Writers often make friends with it, tucking the feelings it evokes away in their mental notebook to be repurposed at a later date. Artists paint it, musicians score it, and poets plait it into a verse that stabs at the earliest parts of our awakening and DNA.
We head out into mysterious lands of the imagination without a compass, the place that no one else but us will charter and map. We face demons of our own making, we face grief, and loss, and fire and drownings and death and guilt and that is only up to Chapter 3.
We take the photos and draw the shapes and paint in a way that makes others cry, just like you do when you hear that special piece of music that seems to have been written just for you, just for this moment.
We write and paint and compose and more, all of it for those who choose to stay in the village, far away from where the mammoth roams. We aren't resentful, we need them there, as not everyone can tame the mammoth, and we want them to be there for us when we return. We will share our stories, and they will sup with us, and tell us about the news in town and keep us up to date with the area, so we will be safe again.
They read the stories we write and dance to the music that is composed for them. They weep over the poems that remind them of a time before they were alive, and they hang the art that cheers them, even though they don't understand why. They are present and real and aware of the dangers of the mammoth and sometimes they drag us out of our caves, or back from the badlands, and pull us into the moment.
And when we come back to ourselves again and reconnect with the world by drinking and laughing with friends, our bodies and minds relax, the good chemicals are released. Yes, we are better for the loneliness, it forced us to be brave and rely on ourselves, to tame the mammoth, but coming back to each other again reminds us that we need companionship to feel safe again.
We must remind other creatives they are not alone. We must support other creatives when the mammoth threatens to stomp them into extinction. We must call out the names of our fellow creatives, so they know that they exist and matter and their work matter. That they will always be missed from events, even if the mammoth says they aren't, that no one remembers them or their work (mammoths say things like that, mammoths also lie, a lot).
We must rely on each other to keep the loneliness in check. These relationships give us meaning and desire. These relationships are what fuels our work. Without them, who are we creating for? We want to be read, to be heard, to be collected, to be noticed.
These social connections fire up our dopamine levels and dopamine pushes us to find what we desire. We need the social relationships to help us realise our creative desires, just as we need the solitary block to realise them into some form of art.
So, my beloved creative people who are reading this, don't deny yourself company and connection. It's all lived experience, and it's all important, for, in the end, to live well, you must live fully, mammoth and all.