*(It should be noted, right here, right now, that there has been another cavernous hole torn in the space and time continuum in regard to my participation in the blogosphere. Not having my own laptop anymore makes for a convenient excuse to avoid the tip tap type writerly ways).
This brings to mind the subject at hand.
And lifetime mastery.
What comes first the grit (nose to the grindstone) or the glory (inspiration)? Is there a formula true for you but different for me?
As one from the school of “lazy” pens, I am conveniently inclined to think that scheduling creativity is, at times, counter-intuitive. I am quite in agreement that anything you love requires dedication, commitment, and work, but the degree to which we are inclined to favor and praise one and diminish the other rankles me.
But, where do you draw the line? Can such a line ever be drawn in the sand between these two, as if they can be divided from one another?
But it isn’t divorce or even separation that I am suggesting.
Advice is given by many renowned writers from the more well-known like Stephen King to Margaret Atwood, to the lesser known by the general public, but highly revered in the writer’s world, such as Natalie Goldberg or Betsy Warland.
Much of this advice is marvelous; I have applied it and then torn it back like sodden band-aids when it has no longer suited me, whether this be to my benefit or not.
But let us get to the heart of the matter–this ever present argument of perspiration vs. inspiration. I have heard this over and over again. It is a mantra so many live by, writer or not. This protestant work ethic approach slathered onto everything like butter to toast. The problem being, not all of life is toast. You would not butter your beets.
In other words, I’m not convinced that the formula is 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration. I think too much credit is given to brute force, to deadlines and timelines. I think the go go go of our society reflects our culturally created values and not some inherent reality. We worship at the feet of production and output. We bow down to the masses of material results that we can see and name. Anything we produce, we name, and anything we name, we produce.
If I might use Mr. King as an example. He is a writing machine. There is no doubt about his workhorse approach. He recommends treating writing as he believes it ought to be–a job. You have your desk, your “pencil in your time” and you stick to it. Clearly, this method has worked remarkably well for him. He is well-monied and well-known. He has a mind full of worlds, as frightening as they may be, that he must share or be stuck with, and what kind of strange torment would that be? These worlds fascinate others and drag money from their pockets and, by percentage, line his very own pockets. So, he seems to be the picture perfect example of this formula. A role model for all of us flim-flammy, flaky artists who hold onto lofty notions of divine inspiration as our guides but really never get anything out there. While I confess, I am not a King fan, he is definitely meant to be a writer, called to do so–but what makes him prolific is not the same thing as what inspires him. Because, the truth is, anyone can write, but is everyone going to be exceptional?
Perhaps a sports analogy may put a different spin on it.Let us talk of the Michael Jordans or the Wayne Gretzkys of the world. No one will argue that they weren’t hard workers, but beyond that…wouldn’t most agree that there was something inspired about them? That something beyond our understanding came through them when in their element? There are just athletes, writers, singers, teachers, anyone, who simply have that “it” that others who do the same thing don’t have with such consistency, no matter how hard they work or how much they produce.
And yet we dismiss the 10% unknowable and unnameable. And coming from a lover of words, this is a tough one; but ultimately, language gets in the way. We get in the way of our own flow by tagging labels upon it. We think that if we study it rigorously enough, that we can imitate this “it” and have it for ourselves. But, I don’t think that’s how it works. “It” is not property; you cannot keep it. You, in fact, must get out of its way and allow it to move through you.
Ultimately I know the difference–I sense, I feel, I am struck by, consumed by, led by, dragged by inspiration when it comes to me. I do not have a choice when those moments arrive. It is beyond me. It’s not about me. And it will simply not be regulated by a clock. It is not to say that picking a time of day and a place will prevent this from happening–it may welcome it, open one up to it, but that is the thing about muse. She won’t come when you wish, she won’t come if you wish–and so we can see, it won’t come to everyone in the same measure.