March 11, 2021 in Dag

Being gloomy doesn’t mean you’re deep

Artists, such as we writers, are deep people. We spend a lot of time immersed in our minds. We constantly reflect on the actions, not just of ourselves, but of everyone that surrounds us. And we agonise for hours about the state of the world and what can be done about it (or even whether anything can be done about it).

This definitely ties in with the popular stereotype of the writer. Writers are serious people, usually found in a cafes drinking copious amounts of coffee (and of course, dressed all in black if like me they live in Melbourne). We’re sensitive souls, in touch with all that is wrong with the world. And as a result, we tend to be dark and moody types of personalities. To be a proper writer (or any other kind of artist) you need to be a gloomy type.

I’ve blogged before about my sense of how employing themes of gloom will add to the critical cachet of a literary work, so I won’t go into that again. Today I’m going to spin off on a related tangent, but one that I’ve travelled down before – music.

Just like gloom adds cachet to literature, it seems like it also adds cachet to music.

It sometimes feels like there’s an automatic assumption anyone with a touch of sensitivity – anyone with any tendencies to the artistic – will gravitate to particular artists. And generally the common feature of these artists is gloom. I’m thinking of names like Nick Cave and Joy Division. When I read any profiles or articles related to these artists, it feels like if you don’t like them, there’s something not quite right about you – you just aren’t deep or sensitive enough.

Well I’m going to put it on the page. I don’t like Nick Cave and I don’t like Joy Division – or at least not the music they produce. To me, it feels like it’s wallowing in gloom. It doesn’t connect to me or how I see the world.

I don’t feel like there’s anything essentially deep about liking those artists. In some ways, it almost makes it a bit easy – I don’t need to prove I’m deep and thoughtful by providing evidence of deep thought. I can just say I like Nick Cave or Joy Division.

By way of contrast, I’ve just been reading biographies of two of my inspirations – Dr Seuss and Jim Henson. One thing both had in common was they regarded themselves as artists. Both thought deeply about the world and their place in it, and both incorporated this into their work.

The other thing both had in common was their view of the world. A view filled with wonder and joy. A wonder and joy they delighted in sharing with their audience. Did this make their art any lesser? Absolutely not. To me it makes it even greater. To find gloom in a complex and difficult world doesn’t seem so difficult. But to find joy in that world is truly a wonderful thing.

So you gloomy types can stick to your gloomy art. I’m going to continue to focus on the joy. It might not make my art any better. It might not even make it art. But it doesn’t make anything I do any less deep.

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