On Inspiration

I’ve said many times that I don’t believe in writer’s block, that if I stop writing when I want to write it’s not a block but more of a clog. Something gets stuck in the natural flow of energy or spirit; something that shouldn’t have been involved in my flow in the first place. Fear comes to mind, and anger, and any of the great plethora of social and societal distractions.

Last night I posted a video which I found inspiring, in which this is said:

“… Welcome to planet Earth. There is nothing you cannot be or do or have. You are a magnificent creator. And you are here by your powerful and deliberate wanting to be here. Go forth, giving thought to what you are wanting, attracting life experience to help you decide what you want. And once you have decided, giving thought only unto that.”

That is a loving, affirmative thing to say. Maybe it’s baloney, but if I were a parent or a teacher, or a preacher, I would tell children this, as early and as often as possible.

I think they’re talking about what you are wanting of life. I don’t think it means, you know, toys. People are made to be loved, things are made to be used. Our consumer society tends to get it backwards, which causes grief. But I digress.

But do I believe it, that it is possible and advisable and wise to give thought only to the creative and life-affirming impulse of what one wants? Yes, I do. If what you want does not involve keeping informed about the debate over the payroll tax, or the great and taxing sadness of the perennial elections of fools and cannibals to high office, let it be. I promise there are more than enough people to worry over such things. Let it be someone else’s useless suffering.

I believe this because I have learned – by the lights of my own life experience – that to see everything that others want to show you takes a million floodlights. But what you want – what you have the talent to do, if that makes it clearer – is so close and clear that a single candle is sufficient to show the way.


Great minds discuss ideas.
Average minds discuss events.
Small minds discuss people.

Ironically, one of the distractions I’m sometimes confronted by is just the opposite of anything you might expect. When I get an idea for something to write, I get distracted by the excitement and pleasure of getting an idea for something to write. This phenomenon must be caused by the Internet. Web 2.0 has heated up our innate desire to share to a rolling boil. 

Holy crap, I’m writing! I can’t wait to share it.

Isn’t that strange? I have to keep telling myself to relax and focus. What’s the next word and the next one after that? Just write them down, in a good order. It’s not time to start shopping for an agent yet. You’ve only got four sentences, for crying out loud.

Yes, I believe that humans should live by the laws of attraction, that the primordial substance of life is love, and that we can do or be or build anything and everything. I also realize that we, at least in America, live in a culture designed to block that force, to diffuse and scatter it. That we can live creatively and well is arguable; to make a living in such a way is exceedingly rare.

Finally, there is the gradual cooling of the small furnace between my ears. It is undeniable. I’m a better writer than I used to be, but not a quicker thinker. As I grow older, I imagine more richly and lyrically, but I don’t have the cognitive pace of my college years. It takes longer to submerge to the lurid fathoms of creativity, and it used to be easier to stay down there for hours at a time. Perhaps it’s just a phase; my less blue period, if you will. Maybe I need to turn off the computer for a while and try working with a legal pad and a ballpoint pen. That worked well for a long time, you know.

Maybe it’s because I turned 50 this past year, but I’m aware that inspiration is fleeting, not to be wasted.

So, kiss me my sweet
And so let us part
And when I grow too old to dream
Your love will live in my heart.

Nat King Cole sings When I Grow Too Old To Dream.

Once in a while

“… there is a moment that emerges when the creative process itself seems to "talk" to the artist. Those who have listened deeply to this "voice" that echoes the rhythms of the universe, and can recite its reverberations back into the stream, are capable of creating work that can enchant the very cosmos itself. So I have faith in the surrender and acceptance of the creative act and the humility to know that a great artist is but a conduit for an expression that resonates with something that is greater than him or herself.

— The Director of the Imaginary Foundation
    http://goo.gl/hCd7d

Once in a while you get shown the light
in the strangest places if you look at it right.
— The Grateful Dead

skeletonroses1

 

Patience

Waiting for my life
to begin again,
for the dead clock to run
backwards to my birth,
for the dawn to bend
humbly over Carpinteria,
San Francisco, Death Valley;
wherever I am when it finally
happens:

when sugar of the orange
runs back to the tree,
airships float whispering
through my suffering sky,
the blue dog of mystery
meets me on the other side,
my scars fade to roses
and cities are built on my bones.

 

       — J. Kyle Kimberlin

 

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No Accounting For It

Ah, good taste, what a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.

– Pablo Picasso

Boy, that’s the truth, isn’t it? And who jumps to mind among the worthies of literature? I mean, you don’t even have to wander off toward Charles Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson or William S. Burroughs.

We’re talkin’ D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Mark Twain. Among those three there are banning, prosecution, and attempts to expunge their work from from libraries.

How can it be? Well, in the words of Ron White, “You can’t fix stupid.”

Eat Your Wheaties!

Moderate giftedness has been made worthless by the printing press and radio and television and satellites and all that. A moderately gifted person who would have been a community treasure a thousand years ago has to give up, has to go into some other line of work, since modern communications put him or her into daily competition with nothing but world’s champions.
– Kurt Vonnegut

Is it me, or has the Internet begun to reverse the process? Or, has it just nullified it? Where are the world’s champions now, if they’re not everybody?

I mean, I feel like I’m moderately gifted, but my few fans are scattered far and wee. … No man is a prophet in his own country. … And I’m a big fan of several of you whom I consider gifted, who live at some distance from me. I hope I haven’t failed to let you know. (Which reminds me, I need to update the Blogroll in the right column.)

Where was I going with this? … Oh yeah, check out https://www.createspace.com.

Welcome, Independent Artists!
Sell Your Books, Music & Video On-Demand

CreateSpace, a member of the Amazon group of companies, provides one of the easiest, fastest and most economical ways to distribute your content to millions of potential customers on Amazon.com and other channels.    Media formats supported through CreateSpace include books, DVDs, CDs, video downloads and Amazon MP3s.

Everyman Knows

 

What shall we say, shall we call it by a name
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.
– The Grateful Dead

There was a well known and successful writer interviewed on TV the other day. Her name escapes. Suffice to say, her ship is in. She was saying that the writer has to know something in order to write.

I don’t know about that. I tend to throw in with Joseph Campbell, who said

He who thinks he knows does not know. He who knows he does not know, knows.

If he’s right, everyone knows, and nobody does. But see if you think this little piece gets any air among the clouds of unknowing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing Trees

“What time is it?”

Taking one hand from the wheel, he started to push back the sleeve of his jacket to see his watch, then stopped. He glanced over at her. She sat looking out her window through the rain, at the trees.

“There’s a clock on the dashboard in front of you.”

“Is it right?”

“Yeah.”

“So you won’t tell me?”

“What’s the use of having a clock in the car, if you always ask me anyway?” But now he did push back his sleeve and look. “The clock on the dash says the world is one minute older than the watch on my wrist. So I’m going with the clock. I’m feeling pretty old right now.”

She frowned and watched the trees, a dark wall and a dark road, a grim and rainy day. She did not look at him, or care about the time. It was only something to say, some excuse to conjure his voice out of the distance between them. It was a good voice, solid and deep, a comfort so often, and always in the dead of night. Sometimes she lay awake and whispered I love you, and he would answer in that voice, without waking. Love you too.

As they passed the end of the orchard, a field opened up. It was fallow, the earth broken and turned. Far back from the road was a brick house and a barn. The house was brightly lit, and smoke rose from the chimney. It was a stranger’s life sitting quietly surrounded by death, waiting to be swallowed by time and rain. She could not wait to get home, turn on lights and music, make tea, and pretend, like that house pretended, that the world was safe.

“I hate myself for leaving him there.”

He checked the mirror and said, “It’s a nice place.”

She turned at looked at him. “Nice? I hate us both.”

“Now, now. Yes, it’s a decent place, as …”

“And he hates us too.”

“… as such places go. Pleasant and homey.”

“Well.”

“He’ll come around. It’s very nice. He’ll get used to it, make friends, have activities. You saw they have a piano in the recreation room. And the courtyard will be warm on sunny days. We’ll visit and take him outside. He’ll be fine in no time.”

“He’s never yelled at us like that. Never at anyone, that I can remember. So angry. Like we’re Eskimos, shoving him out on an ice flow.”

“We’ve been over this. Can you really pretend we’ve been thoughtless?”

“Do they even do that, did they ever?”

“What?”

“The Eskimos.”

“I don’t know.”

“He said we’re going to hell.”

“Oh God. Everyone is on their way someplace, but not there. And we’re only doing our best.”

“No. We could do better. We should bring him back. Fix up the spare bedroom.”

“Honey.”

“Rent one of those hospital beds. I could take care of him, I know it. I could quit my job, we’d get by.”

“You couldn’t. You can’t even lift him. Neither can I.”

They passed the end of a narrow road that broke the blur of idle land and disappeared toward the hills. She saw that her hands were resting on her lap palms up, waiting to be filled by something only God could design.

“You know him better than me.”

“Yes,” he said.

“Since the hour of your birth.”

“Jesus.”

“So I hope you’re right. But he’s already haunting me.”

There was another line of trees close against the road. Almonds, dark and full of rain.

 

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meanwhile, in the shade

I found this in the prefatory text of today’s A Word A Day from Wordsmith.org.

Short story writer Guy de Maupassant once wrote, "Whatever you want to say, there is only one noun to express it, one verb to animate it and one adjective to qualify it." As a master of the short story, Maupassant knew something about finding the right word.

While a word has many synonyms, each synonym has its own shade of meaning. A good writer picks just the right shade to paint a picture with words.

Well, that’s true. That’s what we do. Well, it’s what you do, you good writers. The rest of us stare at the sheet of paper until drops of blood extrude from our foreheads, just trying to imagine the vast array of possibilities. By some accounts, English has over a million words.

colors

The truth is that everyone consults the color palate of words, but writers take it more seriously and pursue it as an art. (Or in the case of business and technical writing, a profession.) There is a poet in every man, just like everyone makes music, even if it’s singing in the shower. We’re not all Beethoven, but we’re somebody.

When my nephew was a baby and learning to talk, he would see a telephone and say tonebach. It was the perfect word. But it’s weird that he chose a sound that was closer to telephone than simply phone, since we rarely use the older, larger word anymore. And he used tonebach for everything from a wall phone to a desk phone to the smallest cell phone. How did he know? Because babies are geniuses, that’s how. Words are an exploration for them.

Writing is always an exploration, whether it’s discovering the hidden lives of characters or the perfect way to say you owe me money, pay up.

“A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
—Thomas Mann

Oh, that’s right. And there are several reasons. Among them is the fact that it is our art, so we can’t stop until we get it as close to perfection as possible, and the last drop of sanity forces us to abandon it and move on. It’s never simply good enough.

There’s the search for something to write about, and that’s usually hard. Though I admit that sometimes for this blog, I just paste in a quote I find interesting, then see where it leads. That’s what I’m doing now. And isn’t that how inspiration works? Didn’t Van Gogh see a field of wheat and follow it into his mind?

Writing isn’t often fun and it isn’t always done for fun. And that’s an extreme over-generalization. But it has some validity, at least for me when I’m wearing my hat of poet and literary writer. It’s all about practice, just like mastering a musical instrument. And It’s about digging for common groundwater, buried streams that run between our lives. All too frequently, the subterranean shores on which they meet are points of pain and grief. Such feelings are common in the lives of human beings.

When William Faulkner – my ultimate, all-time favorite writer – accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature, he said:

I feel that this award was not made to me as a man, but to my work–a life’s work in the agony and sweat of the human spirit, not for glory and least of all for profit, but to create out of the materials of the human spirit something which did not exist before.

Then there’s the solitude, the need to find free hours, and the fact that the people around you don’t appreciate that very much. You go off by yourself for long swaths of time, and come back with very little to show for it. Especially compared to someone whose art is The Well-Tempered Clavier or the well-turned chair.

chair20101108a

Well, it’s nobody’s fault but our own, after all. We could’ve made chairs, or birdhouses. Or some nice paintings of mountains, rocky coastline or dogs and cats. (Though people might have more room for books in their lives than for chairs and paintings.) We choose to string words together, finding the right ones and the right order for them, and we’re probably stuck with that choice. It’s a calling too easily accepted, but borne with some difficulty.

There was a strong sense of the sacred in my task. She should be borne from her old bed to her place of rest in one fluid motion, as of a bird in flight. Still I wanted to lay her down so badly, just for a minute to shake out my arms and stretch my back. No. All I have to do is this step, then that step. One after another, the next right thing. Like words in their order, or how you tie a knot. Step by step until I get it done. It’s my burden to bear and mine alone. I should be grateful for the privilege. Not every man has half a day to spend on death, let alone kindness.

— Kyle Kimberlin, Charlie’s Crossing, work in process.