Dybbuk, by Ephraim Moshe Lilien, 1874–1925
When you’re an artist, it’s so important to have artist friends who have an inherent grasp of why you do what you do. I have a friend who was a year ahead of me at RISD, and I always love our conversations because she completely understands the artistic impulse. I don’t have to explain anything to her, she just gets it. She is incredibly energetic and lively, and I love feeding off her enthusiasm.
A few weeks ago, we were discussing that compulsive creative rampage that artists get possessed by. She’s the same way; once I get stuck on an idea, I can’t leave it alone. I develop this sense of urgency in my work that I have to satisfy. I get so intensely focused that I give up a lot of personal time and comfort to fulfill the work.
My friend said that when she was a teenager and she got into that kind of mode, her mother would call it dybbuk. She described it as an uncontrollable creative drive that burns inside you. I looked up dybbuk later, and it was even darker than my friend’s description: “Dybbuk is a malicious possessing spirit believed to be the dislocated soul of a dead person. It supposedly leaves the host body once it has accomplished its goal, sometimes after being helped.” (Wikipedia)
I absolutely love that feeling. When I’m in that frame of mind, it’s like everything around me disappears. I’m so riveted by the work that I don’t even want to get up to eat lunch. That’s really saying something- I’m a big foodie, and I spend most days day dreaming about the next time I get to eat. The drive is strong enough to the point that I can almost start to understand why those Silicon Valley engineers drink Soylent so they don’t have to interrupt their work.
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