Much to the surprise of most of those who know me well, I did not opt to study a writing or language-based subject at university. This contradicted my educational choices thus far, and was in hindsight quite reckless given that those are the only subjects that I know that I can do. Whilst I love my course, I am yet to excel in it as I would like to.
‘You have never studied any of the subjects in PPE in any depth,’ my mum consoles me, as yet another disappointing essay mark materialises on my computer screen.
‘You will have to give yourself time to learn the skills for those subjects. It is a different type of writing to what you are familiar with; you must stop giving solely your opinion. Write as though you have made up your mind using the reading. Use facts more.’
I’ve never been a facts advocate; I have never really had to be. I love studying French because it gives me another medium of expression, and permits me to understand the formation of my mother tongue (and sounds quite sexy). I love reading because sometimes I will encounter a phrase whose words align so deliciously that they tremor like breath on my skin. I love writing because if I have too many thoughts they grind a spark in my head and I must dispense them unto something tangible for relief.
But I know well that important discoveries are not made by those who wish to dance upon a ribbon of fantasy. I know that the liquor of passion entices a momentary drunkenness that soon gives way to the mundanity of fact. You cannot escape facts; it is high time that I confront them in order to expand my opportunities and capabilities. This I know.
But once upon a time, I realised why moments of creativity are a salvation. When I was younger, my friend Ceylan died suddenly. After she died, her husband gave me a small parcel.
‘This was in our car,’ he said. ‘It is from Ceylan.’
I was a little afraid to open it. It meant a lot. It meant that I was one of the things that she thought about before she did not think anymore. It meant that she had wanted to surprise me with something special but would never get to see my smile when I opened it.
When I am revising facts and am bored (a rare combination I know), I sketch my name in letters that are thick and have a shadow. It was only the other day, as I did so absent-mindedly, that I remembered why. I have been doing it for years, assuming that there was no reason for it at all. But suddenly I looked to my bedroom mirror, around which are pinned pictures and items, and saw that parcel stuck to the side. I kept it because Ceylan had written my name in thick, shadowed letters on the front.
What I did not realise was that whilst my fingers hovered only for a moment over those letters before slitting the paper into silver (a pair of tortoise earrings, if that is of any interest) my mind stayed on the name and never really left. Whilst my brain is sore with the effort of retention, it sings my name to my hand and I write it out just as she did – although not half as gorgeously. It is perhaps a mental compromise; creativity splinters the desert of fact. It is a shard upon an otherwise desolate horizon.
This is why I have come to realise that our strokes of creativity must be outed. What is life without beauty? It cannot lie dormant beneath a film of pure logic; we must be permitted to draw, to write, to feel and to dream. Our memories must tease us as stories, even as we concern ourselves with reason. As important as logic is, logic alone is not life.
Take, for instance, times of sadness. I do not feel that I am alone in saying that during such stress, I actively seek out those closest to me who are creative. This is perhaps because they exude a gentle and profound understanding. Somehow, imagination coaxes the wonder of feeling, and from this arises a most essential empathy.
In this sense, a wondering mind is in fact the most rational of all. I can comprehend now that many of the theories that I study in my pursuit of a rational outlet were in fact derived from a mind filled with the starlight of the once unimaginable. What humanity now understands as common practise was long ago just a creative gleam in the mind of some small person.
So my message to you all (and to myself as I cannot look at another statistic this evening) is not to be resigned to facts, as they alone cannot colour the world with invention and feeling. Ceylan’s little letters taught me that small moments of creative relief resonate because they matter. We are, after all, such stuff as dreams as made on.