First, a disclaimer: I’m thinking now that half a margarita before dinner and writing might have been a mistake. Although a delicious one, as some mistakes are. So I’m drinking the other half with a mug of green tea, hoping they’ll balance each other out.
I’ve been wanting for a while to write about creativity. A recent cartoon in The New Yorker was titled “Creation: The True Story”.
“On the first day, God created nothing, because there was plenty of time. Second day: same deal. ‘Why rush?’ On the third day, He created a list. On the fourth day, He was not in the right mood. On the fifth day, all this stuff was going on. You don’t want to know. On the sixth day, God created the whole shebang. On the seventh day, He rested.”
For me this captures the creative process precisely: riding the tides of mood, energy, confidence, inspiration, and distraction while desperately holding on and hoping something worthy happens eventually.
Creation, like everything else, depends on relationship — with yourself, with your audience, with whatever you’re making. Historically this relationship has been personified through the muse.
Growing up, I found the muse trope annoying, mainly because of its gender stereotyping: muses were women, the artists they inspired, men — everyone knew that. I resented the assignment of stereotypically feminine characteristics to the muse: capriciousness, for example. For a long time, I had no truck with the muse racket; people had to shoulder responsibility for their own inspiration, that was that.
Somewhere along the way, my thinking changed, as it does, possibly not often enough. These days I envision the muse as someone to talk to: someone who listens, asks thought-provoking questions, makes inspiring contributions, and never interrupts — the ideal conversation partner.
A muse might be someone you know, or want to be known by. Someone you’re trying to inspire, convince, entice. In this case, your agenda will determine your expression. Or the muse might be anonymous — an otherness of undefined qualities, nothing to cater to or defy.
I go back and forth between these conceptions (capricious, I know). What matters most is that I imagine someone listening. Because if not, there’s no point to talking. Although I do sometimes talk to myself and let people eavesdrop.
I started this blog in January with the admirable goal of posting daily, the mere contemplation of which makes me tired. I didn’t tell anyone about it or take measures to help people find it. I did let it slip once in a call with my sister who, ever alert, inquired why she hadn’t heard this before. “Well, it’s a secret,” I answered lamely, demonstrating my mastery of the explanation that explains nothing.
“A secret? On the internet?” she cross-examined, demonstrating the impeccable logic that has lanced many a fine delusion. Then she offered the suggestion which is probably responsible for the survival of this blog to date. “You might find it easier to keep writing if you told people, so they could read it and talk back.”
The truth is, everyone who writes or has ever written has been talking to someone, a someone either particular or hypothetical, phenomenal or absolute. I’m ambivalent about the proliferation of technology, which has exponentially increased the frequency of communication to the detriment of its quality — depth, beauty, and thoughtfulness. With words, more isn’t better.
Yet it’s an incredible boon for anyone with a computer to be able to express herself freely and feel, rightly or wrongly, that someone out there is listening. So here’s the deal: I’ll keep writing once a week or so. You keep reading when you can. And maybe drop me a line once in a while?