In every artist's and writer's life there are moments when the inspiration fails, and it fails absolutely. For me, this is abject misery.
made up of four main parts in my opinion: i) talent (we all have some talent), ii) craft and skill (taught), iii) experience
(learned over time); and iv) inspiration. Talent is the foundation -
you build your creative efforts on this. Craft and skill is the part you
put on the foundation first - you go out and pursue this yourself, and
it includes *practice*. Experience comes to the open mind and heart as
it travels along its way. That last bit - inspiration - is pure mystery.
What is it? From whence does it come?
are not the largest part of my (or anyone's) creative efforts, but for
me they are the transformational part of it. This is the part of your
efforts that take your solid craft up to another level (or two).
me, it is also the exhilarating part of creativity. It's connecting
with something outside of yourself that is completely mystical. See
"Riding the Dream World Wave" above.
It comes when it will, but there are also things I can do to jump start it a bit.
of those things is reading Steinbeck's journals and letters -
especially the letters. On display there are all of his doubts and fears
and difficulties. To read his thoughts about his great works and see
his uncertainty helps me to understand that even the great ones go
through these feelings and struggles.
One of the other
things I do is read and re-read parts of certain books I have on the
writing life, or on writing technique. One of my favorites in that
regard is a book called "Fiction Writer's Workshop" by Josip Novakovich.
I do not even remember how I found out about this book, but I have had
it a long time. You can still get this book online.
Here are two of my fave quotes from the Introduction:
"To be a good writer, you must have the paradoxical trait of being a gregarious loner."
a writer you need a strong sense of independence, of being and thinking
on your own...I will give you a lot of advice, but you need not take
That first line
struck me from the moment I read it. It describes my particular
personality so well, I couldn't believe it. A gregarious loner.
of all, I am a people watcher, an observer of situations and behavior,
which I catalogue into my brain and utilize when I write. I do this
alone - sitting in a bar in a restaurant while making notes for a novel,
or in the coffee house while working I look up and watch the
interactions of people around me. I often have conversations with total
strangers while I am doing this. It is nothing for me to strike up
conversations like this. It's fun - and then I put my head down and go
back to note taking.
Second, I love to be with people -
family and friends - for limited periods of time. Yes, "limited periods
of time", because one cannot write a book when one is surrounded by
friends and family all the time. I do love to be with people, though,
and I am fully in that moment while the moment is there. I drink in all
of it - every drop - sight, sound, smell, feeling - and at full
Then I go into my solitude and write. I make
stuff up, and I insert into that all the observations I have from my
people-watching and my social life. It is all there, mixed together,
melded into scenes and people who have never existed except in my mind.
second quote of Novakovich leap-frogs off of the first one, and I do
have a strong sense of independence. It comes at a price often, but it
is worth the price for me.
Then there is his advice
about advice. I could not say it better. It is good to be inspired by
books on writing life and technique, but a writer must learn when to
take advice and when to ignore it. Just because someone has written a
thing does not mean that thing is good for you. You must go with your
gut and trust that. In fact, I think that is a good idea in life in
general. You need a "strong sense of independence and thinking on your
own". You must have that to write.
Then you let all of
it flow in, inspire you as it will, release the parts that are of no
consequence to you, and move on with your writing, your dream, the world
you will create.
If you are lucky, the inspiration
will come and envelop all your craft, and skill, and experience, and
talent, and transport you to that new place you needed to go to give
your dream life on the page.
It is the way of writing. It is the way of this writer.