Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Warning: this blog is not inspired

Whilst working on my entry for Nothing Binding one of the fields asked for my sources of inspiration. There's no easy answer. It's not that I haven’t thought about it before, why one piece of writing is only okay while another one rocks. It's nothing to do with intelligence or ability. They're factors in the equation, more constants than variables. The critical issue is often to do with inspiration, but we'll come back to that.

First of all, what is writing, I mean beyond scribbling words down on scraps of paper? Why do I have to write? Why is writing the answer the thing I naturally gravitate towards when something affects me? Why don't I curl up in fœtal position or simply bang my head against a wall?

Okay, let's have a stab at it:

Creative writing: NOUN, a delayed sympathetic reaction following an emotional response to specific external stimuli expressed in words.

Not perfect but not bad. (Please feel free to have a go yourself.)

In others words, a red rag gets a bull's dander up and he charges. Writing is that charge and once the energy has been discharged (converted into words) that's it, you need another red rag. The catch is that, with the bull, the same rag will work ad infinitum – bulls are daft – but it doesn't work that way with inspiration. Inspiration is a one-off fix and you better damn well come and get it while it's hot. Think of it like a joke. Why does the one about the chicken crossing the road not work these days? It is still a joke but it's simply not funny any more.

I can think of numerous things that have been a catalyst in the writing process, for example, the death of my parents. I wrote a couple of excellent poems after my mum and dad passed away but not right away. In my father's case it was a year later; in my mother's, a whole five years elapsed. And that's something I've noticed: there's invariably a gestation period.

What do you do though when you're not inspired? Do you go looking for inspiration in alcohol or drugs? There's a whole whean (Scots: a good few or quite a lot) of writers who have and I can fully understand why. When I look back at my very best work and remember how it felt to write down those words, I'd do pretty much anything to get that feeling back if it worked; there's nothing like it. But I don't drink and I don't take drugs and that's not simply so I'm a good example to my daughter, I am scared that I do something that screws around with what's going on in my head.

There's an old expression, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but I've always thought about why I write quite differently. I think the best writers are broken, generally not so badly that they can't function in society, but they are nevertheless not quite right. They're like the robot in Asimov's, The Bicentennial Man; if he got "fixed" then he would lose his creativity.

This blog is not inspired. That doesn't mean it is bad writing. Inspiration is good and there is a definite buzz to working while inspired but it is one thing to rattle down an eight-line poem during that high – a 50,000+ word novel is another beast entirely. When I was young and all I wrote was poetry, I got used to hanging around waiting on my muse-of-the-moment getting her act together but nowadays, though I freely admit I may not be in full control of the direction my writing takes, I can't afford to wait.


zenartnothing said...

Keep in mind that I have a new found perspective on art, but I wanna take a run at my own way.
Expanding creative writing into any creative form that we can label art (spreadsheets included) I now see that the art is about the observations we make.
But why?
I have written a whole chapter observing that Art(capital A) is actually nothing and meaningless. It is the meaning and value that we give to it that has it be what it is. I imagined the artist using talents to express himself. The welder who creates sculpture or brings two I-beams together. The skater that expresses her story through motion.
I still got back to the question of why?
We know they are eye catching and send us to places of contemplation and wonder.
Now I have been fed that art is stemming form observation.
Instead of studying the form as a tool of creating Art, observation is actually the genesis of Art?
If that's the case then I can see the extrapolation that art moves the artist to analyze and share. Kind of a tool of evolution to 'spread the word'. That is what the first cave drawings were about anyway.
Lets chew on that...or bang our heads, your choice, for a bit.

Jim Murdoch said...

I suspect, Zenartnothing, that artists all express themselves for the same reason, because they don't know what else to do with their thoughts and feelings; externalising them helps. Some do so knowing full well that others will be able to make something from what they leave behind on the page or whatever but that's a bonus. I've described a poem as waste product, what's left after the creative process has taken place. I feel better after having written a poem. I personally don't need it afterwards.

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