What is creativity? What is the thing that sets off that spark? I often think of it as the Big Bang — we don’t exactly know, but there is something that set events in motion. A collision, one idea striking another. Sometimes, in order to preserve the resulting spark, a writer or artist needs to go away from the world they know; they need to step into the unknown, where new thoughts can thrive.
In 1819, Francisco Goya moved into a villa, where he would complete a series of artworks that would come to be known as the Black Paintings. He painted them on the very walls of the villa, and before the house was demolished, they were cut out and carried away. (Indeed, one of these paintings was shown at Paris’s Exposition Universelle in 1878, eleven years prior to the Exposition Universelle I visit in Rings of Anubis!) Goya’s works were amazingly dark and likely not meant for public consumption — there’s even a theory they might not have been made by him.
After reading about the Black Paintings, this idea stuck with me. A woman, an artist, going away to a villa to work. But something about the villa wasn’t right — she knows it’s not quite right, but she keeps going, and keeps forgetting to bring canvas with her, even though she means to paint while she’s there. So what better canvas than the walls? What better brush than her hands? Did she paint the resulting works or did something else?
Every night, something awakens in the villa, something that uses our artist as a canvas, something that opens her and paints her and closes her up come morning. Something that plants a spark within her to continue the work the following day. Sometimes she creates new paintings; sometimes she destroys the old. She is drawn to a long and empty road that leads to a rotting windmill. She believes she never goes there, but some part of her knows otherwise.
My thanks to Molly Tanzer who read this story when it was new and tender and said she loved it. Sometimes (often) you write a thing and think okay, does this make sense to anyone else or just me.
Sometimes, you spread a lot of paint on villa walls looking for an idea; sometimes you actually find one. Sometimes you find a strength you didn’t know you had: to get up, to keep moving, to keep putting paint on the walls despite the horrible things that open you every single night.
“Every Winter” can be found in Apex Magazine #90.