David Bowie constantly changed throughout his career. He could've been Ziggy or the Thin White Duke for the rest of his life, but he kept changing and evolving. The same with Prince. He could've just stayed as that guy in Purple Rain, but he kept changing and evolving. Björk could've stayed the sort of elfin pixie of her early albums, but she kept growing, changing. She took a chance on revealing her personal heartbreak and tragedy on her 2015 album, Vulnicura. The result is a very intimate and stunning recording.
There is only one Björk, and you never know what to expect.
The same can be said for composers like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, or Iannis Xenakis. Cage could've kept writing music for tin cans and everyday objects, like Third Construction, but he moved on, creating all types of different music for all types of different instruments. Stockhausen moved through electronics, choral music, massive opera stagings, and much more, all with the same ease. Xenakis, an architect by trade, constructed music of both immense gesture and sublime beauty.
Stockhausen, a string quartet, and 4 helicopters—genius or madness?
One thing could be said of genius, it has a restless spirit. But you don't have to be a genius to keep evolving. Perhaps the antithesis to genius is fear.
Fear that you will fail.
Fear that no one will accept your new work.
Fear that you are out of ideas.
Fear that you are too old to reinvent yourself.
Fear that you won't make any money.
Fear that no one will understand your work.
Fear, fear, fear.
The great ones who we look up to have fear, but they face it. Bowie was 68 and dying from cancer, yet he produced his most stunning and amazing work in Backstar.
Too afraid of moving forward?
David Bowie, still reaching for the unknown, even at the end.
He remained focused and creative right up to the end. He could've given us some sort of Ziggy Stardust recreation, and it would've been accepted. But he pushed himself and created something new that tied into all his previous work, a sort of summation of his life and career. And it's been hailed his masterpiece by many.
Keep searching. Keep stretching. Keep growing.