It is said that one of the prerequisites of creativity is to have had experienced childhood trauma. Read the works of any great Irish writer (Frank McCourt, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce) and you will clearly see that youthful pain and suffering fueled much of their creative genius. And while I do not claim to be remotely on par with these incredible storytellers, to read any of my writing is to know that childhood trauma played a significant role in the determination of my creative voice.
To be honest, my youth unfolded like the discarded first draft of a story that could have been so much better. There simply weren’t enough stretches of peace or joy in it to attend to the edits necessary to have made it bearable. It isn’t that I am filled with regret for all of the things that might have been. It’s more that I am blanketed in a sadness for the sheer waste of it all.
Intuitively, I know that my broken juvenile years can’t be the full measure of why I write the way I write. Something deeper, more sinister, is afoot. Something bigger and more malevolent presses my pen to the paper.
For me, the value of nothing out of nothing comes something. The nothing started even earlier than the moment when I began to write. I have no doubt that what little creativity I possess is the function of some neurological quirk; that I have just enough of psychosis or depression to fuel an interesting poem here, an article there. That creativity (if that’s even the word for it) is not, in any circumstance, the product of “talent” or creative muse, but rather arises more as a testament to a damaged mind that perceives the events of life from a slightly more skewed or twisted perspective.
Perhaps it was the combination of the two: an injured adolescence and a form of brain damage. When I was four years old, I fell down the stairwell of the two story duplex my family lived in while my father was stationed in the Navy. I was rushed to the hospital because the fall had resulted in a crushing blow to the frontal temporal region of my skull. Surely, my brain was impacted, if not forever altered because of this accident. Combine that blow with the endless physical and sexual trauma that rejoined the family the day my father retired from service, and then, perhaps I can begin to put my finger upon my “creativity.”
Ask yourself…what can be more creative than scrambling daily throughout your entire childhood to find a place to survive. Out of necessity, the damaged mind constructs a false reality in which to take shelter. It is this false reality that takes form in the expressive arts.
I may never know what truly fuels my creative process. The sands of time that fill the hourglass of my life have nearly run out. While I am by no means an old man, I am, nonetheless, a tired man and my time upon this tortured plane of existence called “life” can now be measured in moments rather than years. I will leave behind me no great works of art, no lasting legacy of poetic genius. Even the memory of me will fade before the ink is dry on my final written word.
Mine has been a lonely walk: solitude whispers a silent story. And as we all know, life and living require interaction. But I was born alone, have lived alone, and will undoubtedly die…alone. And that doesn’t require creativity.