Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hunter and prey

the subject of today's Sunday Scribblings is inspiration -- something of eternal interest to all artists, whatever their medium. Anyone who's ever sweated through writer's block knows how elusive inspiration can feel. There are times when the desire to write just burns, but the idea that truly ignites me and lets my ink flow just isn't there. It feels not like I'm courting inspiration, but hunting it through a crowd of lookalikes.

That's bull though. For me, writer's block has always been more about self flagellation than a true lack of inspiration. It's about not feeling up to the task or not feeling excited enough about my subject to do my writing job (whether the obligation is professional or personal) well. I sit. I think. I stew. I wad up sheets of paper and keep my finger on the backspace key. All the while I'm ignoring the fact that inspiration is indeed tracking me and waiting to pounce, just waiting for me to turn my attention away from myself and onto anything else in the world around me.

To be inspired, all I have to do is open my eyes, my ears, and the rest of my senses. I have to let the barriers between me and the worlds both tangible and ethereal drop long enough to feel a sense of awe, wonder, delight or disgust. It is then that writing or any creative endeavor becomes not a labor but the transcription of a liminal reaction.

It's all about being open, but that works in more than one way. With inspiration, you not only have to be open to receiving it, you must be willing to use it. That's where discipline and motivation comes in. My choices include getting up early and staying up late to make time to write. I'll step out of the shower to jot down that perfect idea that came with water beating on my head. I've forgotten too many shower inspirations to not make time to write them down now. I keep a small notebook in my purse and write during my lunches. While driving, I'll use the record function on my cell phone when an idea smacks me in the face. I deal with so many numeric goals in the job that supports me that daily word counts or page goals don't work for me.

I just know that I have to make the time every day to write, and that opens the door to a troubling aspect of inspiration. I have to acknowledge that I betray inspiration regularly. It gives me wonderful toys, and I turn them into garbage. Instead of letting that stop me, I have to admit that sometimes my writing just stinks. I look over some of my older writing, not just the adolescent poetry of my teen years, and shudder. If I want the ideas to still come though, I have to give myself permission to be bad, really bad, and not in a fun way. Inspiration forgives though and prefers that her gifts be used than ignored.

After the initial heat of a daily first draft has cooled, another discipline, the conscious application of craft, must take its place. In the refining of my ideas into their most palatable form, more ideas can come. Editing, self editing particularly, is hard work for me. It's easy to rely on some God given ability and just let it sit there. Striving to make my writing better is as frustrating as any other job. Being willing to do it though, immersing myself in it, has the effect of making me more open though. It's a wonderful cycle of receiving, using, giving and receiving more.

For a few older thoughts on inspiration in one of my poems, go here.

Sunday Scribblings, inspiration, writing


Blogger Tori said...

You did a marvelous job of summing up the nitty grittiness of inspiration.
The first step to greatness is showing up.
For those who write, it is at the blank page.
Glad to have found your blog.

March 18, 2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

For me, writing walks the fine line between "have to" and "want to." I don't ever want writing to become a job. It's my art, the physical manifestation of my soul. That cannot be work.

Still, I know that if I don't keep writing, sometimes even when I have nothing to say, I will lose it my "edge," or whatever. So, as you say, I give myself permission to "stink" once in awhile. Because without the stinkers, the true treasures might never leave my pen...

March 18, 2007 11:14 PM  
Blogger Wenda said...

I was inspired to come back and read this again, I got so much out of it the first time. Thanks.

March 20, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger ckays1967 said...

now that the baby has gone home I have more "time" on my hands to visit with my friends....

that said, thank you for this post....


I have missed you my lady.

March 20, 2007 2:37 PM  

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