Creating Art Is Like Catching Lightnin’ Bugs (Ben Folds)

Ben Folds remembers a dream from when he was 3. 

He’s the only one who can see these fireflies, aka lightnin’ bugs, in his backyard. There’s a whole group of people gathered for some occasion, but he’s the only one who can actually see the fireflies put on their sparkling display against the dark, night sky. 

Confused but inspired, he does what any responsibly excited kid would do. He get’s that lightnin’ in some jars. And he’s delighted to find that once captured, everybody else can see them too.  

And oh are they happy to see them. 

Reflecting on the dream and his life as a musician that would eventually unfold,* 

At its most basic, making art is about following what’s luminous to you and putting it in a jar, to share with others.

I can’t stop thinking of this line. I haven’t read his book yet, but I can’t stop thinking of this quote. 

Because that’s all you’ve really got to do with your work. There’s a lot of darkness out there in the world when you look around. But you see a firefly. I know you do. You probably see a bunch of them. 

You’re wondering why nobody else can notice them. 

Well, they can – but you have to capture the lightning and bring it to them. 

Open your eyes. Find the fireflies. Share the illuminated jars. Backyard Prometheus style. All of us. 

Check out The Marginalian post, “How To Find Your Artistic Life: Ben Folds On Empathy, Creativity, And The Courage To Know Yourself.”

h/t to Heather Neilson for sending this story in as “this lightning bugs in jars quote is such cultish creative material.” You should check out her art too. We have one of her pieces hanging on our dining room wall and I highly recommend one for your wall space too.

*couldn’t resist

bonus – I always loved the energy of this song… the black t-shirt line = perfection

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