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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

#rawthought: Quellancholy: The Creative Frenzy Begat by Melancholy

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I have a love/hate relationship with the feeling of melancholy. It happens to me a lot…sometimes for inexplicable reasons. My mother had it too, and I always remember when she was sad and didn’t want to communicate with anyone she delved into some creative project- sewing… painting…or even building a tiki bar!

Perhaps I inherited it, but the more overwhelmed I am by these “blue funks” I seem to want to create things. Most of my song lyrics for History for Music Lovers were written in the throes of cancer treatment, And I can see, looking back at the utter frenzy of some projects (such as #makeoutpoetry), that these bursts of creative energy constitute a diary of sorts, charting the low times.


I while back I chanced upon a wonderful Brainpickings article called “In Praise of Melancholy and How it Enriches Our Capacity for Creativity” . Well, there is no way I could pen a better post so I will just throw it out there for you to read yourself. I love the poetic words of Eric Wilson:

“Without the agitations of the soul, would all of our magnificently yearning towers topple? Would our heart-torn symphonies cease?”

Curator Maria Popova also includes this TED ED video about the essence of melancholia::

The video discusses the Romantic poets, who believed a certain degree of melancholy was necessary for more deeply understanding and appreciating other emotive things, such as beauty. In college I studied Japanese History, and was always moved by the association the samurai warrior class made with the cherry blossom, or sakura. These lovely pink and white delicate flowers appear only for a short time and can often be seen fluttering from the tree branch as they fall to their death. The samurai took this as metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. They embraced the poignancy of the sakura, and related it to their own fleeting lives.


Just two days ago on Vincent Van Gogh‘s birthday Popova posted yet another brilliant piece- “How Van Gogh Found His Purpose”. In it, she accents a certain phrase the artist used to describe the creative outbursts he had whilst feeling down-

“Active Melancholy”

In Van Gogh’s words:

“Instead of giving way to despair, I took the way of active melancholy as long as I had strength for activity, or in other words, I preferred the melancholy that hopes and aspires and searches to the one that despairs, mournful and stagnant.”


I felt an immediate affinity to this feeling and the term, but later, when  describing it to a friend, used the word


“Quell” of course indicates a suppression of an unpleasant feeling – a sort of soothing of the soul. Because I LOVE portmanteux and other wordplay, it occurred to me suddenly that we could rebrand Van Gogh’s term as


Would you use it? I would. In fact, I might be experiencing it right now.

!!!***!!! ADDENDUM: Just found out from a German teacher friend that “eine Quelle” is a “spring or source” – so it fits perfectly with this analogy, non? (or..nein?)


#brainpickings #vincentvangogh #charliechaplin #poe #Japan #sakura #mariapopova #creativity #teded #victorhugo #quellancholy #rawthought #melancholy

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