The Muse and other whimsical notions

Posted: January 20, 2014 in Articles
Tags: , , , , ,
© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

© User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

I’ve been racking my brain trying to come up with something witty or insightful to share with the five people who seem to be following this blog (shout-out to my peeps!), but nothing has been coming to me. That pretty much sums up how much writing I’ve been doing in general as I keep expecting that I’ll just suddenly feel inspired to sit down and tap out something meaningful.

It seems like at some point in my life I’d fallen under the mistaken assumption that being creative was simply an attribute ingrained in the human psyche from which all great ideas, as well as a few not so great ideas that end with consequences and community service, flow. As I got older I learned that artists believe in something called a muse which dictates the ebb and flow of their art. As a writer I presumed that I was also gifted with such a thing. Whether it was intended to be a sort of tiny magical creature that whispered in my ear or something as unintelligible as the soul, well that was a matter for greater minds than mine to worry over.

The point is that for the longest time I believed that creativity was something that should be cultivated and cherished, but that could not be

Notice the utter lack of writing getting done.

Notice the utter lack of writing getting done.

fully controlled. The very act of being creative has it’s own process for crying out loud. Imagine that, a whole process just to get your mind to function in a way that creates ideas so that you can then go on to implement them. How are you meant to get anything done if you go about it that way? Imagine if you had to do daily rote tasks in this manner. Constantly having false starts because you needed to make sure you were going about doing the dishes in a specific way that would yield the best results. In the end you’d only see the soap spots anyway.

There are some people who even actively encourage this ridiculous idea that by forcing creativity you destroy that which you are trying to create. I’ve heard fellow writers bemoan how their muse wasn’t cooperating and therefore they couldn’t get anything done. Hell, I’ve been one of those writers, hence the name of the my blog. “Don’t try to force creativity,” they insist as they adjust their beret to a more artsy angle. “Let it come to you.”

The trouble with this is that when I finally get the time to sit down and create my mind has a tendency to blank out for a bit. I like to think it gets distracted by all the potential for great ideas floating around and sort of just short circuits. In the ultimate self ‘flipping of the bird’ when I don’t have a moment to spare on actually exploring an idea and writing it out my mind feels compelled to be overly helpful and supply me with endless amounts of topics and hilarious sentences which never see the light of day beyond the darkened corners of my mind. 

So therein lies my problem. Do I hope to catch creativity unawares, like an outrageously accented hunter in the savanna. Or, do I go the practical route and blindly smack at my keyboard with my fingered meat-bricks until something vaguely resembling writing comes out? For the longest time I would try to sneak up on myself during bouts of creative thinking and quickly jot everything down. Sometimes this worked and I added ideas and story snippets to my writing journal which promptly left my mind as soon as they were on the page. The chance of having another amazing burst of insight into a project I wasn’t actively working on was pretty slim. Sometimes I’d actually begin a project, only to run out of steam and give up on it halfway through (halfway could be generous in most cases, but you get the idea).

I’ve been doing some thinking on the subject. Primarily this came about because of my complete lack of focus when tasked with taking my writing seriously this year. The most common bit of writing advice I see being banded around is that you should write everyday. This makes sense, one does not become a writer by thinking or reading about writing. Only through actually writing can you get anywhere. Logically that makes sense, but some part of me balked at the idea of being “forced” to write, to create, when my mind wasn’t fully on-board with the idea. My reasoning was simple, how can I write without knowing what I want to write about? Sadly, I’ve come to realize this is just another excuse, another lie I tell myself to make it okay to settle for not achieving what I want to do.

According to the internet, Jack London once said, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.”

Suddenly all those ludicrous notions about being a slave to some imaginary brain imp’s evil bidding seem stupid. Why should I play second fiddle to some erratic part of my mind that doesn’t appreciate deadlines and paychecks? I’m living in the real world and in the real world writers write things so that people can read them. We don’t hide clever little snippets of ideas in a notebook that nobody else will ever see, we have the internet. We pound keys and throw our ideas at the web and see what sticks. Once that is done we keep doing it until someone gives us a book to put all those words in. That’s the sort of writer I want to be, not the capricious artist who figures they have plenty of time to become a savant in their field. Maybe that works for some folks, more power to them, but I’m going to stick with just writing.

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