Sue recently asked me if I’d contribute to this collection of thoughts on creativity. Of course, I forgot, was reminded, and then had to be reminded again. So here I sit, immediately after the second reminder, writing about why and how I write, because if I don’t do it now, I may never do it. That’s just how I work. Whatever is foremost in my mind is usually the thing I’m forced to write. The only exception to this rule so far is my first novel, which held the top spot in my mind for a record nine months. It finished up at a little over ninety thousand words, but the second draft wasn’t so lucky, it remains one of those things I have to work on rather than one of the things that work on me. It will come, eventually. I like the following quote because it fits me well. I don’t write poetry much, but I think the idea generally fits fiction just as well.
“He who approaches the temple of the Muses without inspiration, in the belief that craftsmanship alone suffices, will remain a bungler and his presumptuous poetry will be obscured by the songs of the maniacs.”
Let me just say, I write every single day, inspired or not, because I promised myself I would. I made the promise the day the idea for my novel came to m. I don’t remember the exact day, but it was in March of 2010. I’d been writing off and on for a few years before then, but that day marked a change, that day I didn’t take a lunch at work. I haven’t taken one since. The idea was for a short story, but it just didn’t work out that way.
I wrote it the same way I do now, with paper and pen, and it works for me. I look at it this way, by the time I get around to typing, my 1st draft is really my 2nd, it’s better and more polished than it would have been if I’d began typing. Another reason I continue to take the handwritten route is I find it hard not to edit while I type. Since half of my handwriting is unreadable, sometimes even to me, I don’t worry about editing until later.
I can write, as I am now, and force the words onto the page. Occasionally it even leads to something good, something I can use or at least revise into a readable work, more often though, what I end up with feels transparent and lifeless. Luckily, it doesn’t happen often, and that’s because I rarely run out of ideas. If I am stuck on a story or it begins to feel forced, I switch to something else that remains unfinished.
As I write this, I have approximately fifteen stories at some level of completeness and probably notes or titles for twice that number, all handwritten in a notebook of ideas. But I can’t take all the credit for what some may call my overactive imagination. I find inspiration everywhere in life because there are no bit parts in real life, everyone is someone and if you look at the world in that way and ask yourself why people act the way they do, you find stories generally make themselves. Still, there are times when, try as I might, I’ve got nothin’, and that’s when I rely on the creativity of others.
I will never admit this again so listen carefully. I’m lucky in some ways that I have a job which requires a lot of manual labor. It keeps my mind free to pursue other things. Also, I have the ability to listen to ten hours of audio books, podcasts, or music almost every day. Talk about finding the positives, but it’s true. Without the inspiration of others, I’m not sure I’d be able to continue doing what I do. I’ve drawn on all three many times, whether it’s searching for the how, the why, or something I had never even considered, I nearly always come away from a story, novel or album with a new insight or voice I can use in my own work. Of the three, I find music to be the most creatively productive. Maybe that’s because I try hard not to imitate other people’s work and the different medium doesn’t confine me. I can’t really say, but I just checked my ITunes library and I’ve listened to Christopher Carlson’s entire ambient audio collection over sixty times. He’s one of many creative people I’ve come across in the course of starting my podcast, and remains an integral part. Come to find out we only live about thirty miles apart. Can someone say small world?
I guess the creative process isn’t something that I had even really considered. This is probably the first time I’ve really tried to analyze it. Mostly I just do, if it works, great, if not, I toss it and try something else. Regardless of results, no story is created in a vacuum and as I said before, I couldn’t do it without the input of readers, the inspiration of others, and the actions of all the effing weirdoes that inhabit this world. Some of you are even reading this now. To you, I must say thanks, yes even you, I see you hiding there with the silly putty.