Call me morbid, call me pale, but I have no idea what inspiration really means. When I step back from my writing desk and imagine what I do, it has nothing to do with being inspired. I have mostly a vague idea of what I want to write (sometimes a more definite idea) and then I go at it and along the way I seek out other writers who are doing similar things. And this can be arduous and time consuming and require loads of reading. Or sometimes I can luck out and a writer (or since I am a MFA student at Stonecoast, one of my fab mentors) can point me in the right direction and save me lots of time.
But I’m never inspired by what I read to want to write like that. I want to write like me and I seek out other authors to figure out what they do, what they don’t do, to make my writing life easier but which always turns out to be actually harder.
So I don’t get it when writers or people say they are “inspired” by such and such. Inspired to do what, I think.
I’m not even inspired as a writer to get my ass into a the writing chair. It’s much more of an ordeal. It’s me eyeing the chair like it’s electric or else a trap door that will open to some hellish realm that is populated by failed writers. It takes spit and shine and balls to sit down and a drive; a crazy unrelenting drive that is a mixture of blood and sperm to sit and write. I’m driven by some unnamed demon, that is why I behave so good and sit and write because I want to create a book that might enable me to change bits of the life I’m leading that I don’t like. Whether all my effort in the chair will pay off, is yet to be seen. But still I grit my teeth and write as if the Grim Reaper is standing over me. There is no inspiration at my writing desk, just a demon or an dark avenging angel – oh, and sometimes the ghost of a long-dead favourite writer.
Recently I read in the Guardian a review about Imagine: How Creativity Works. And bluntly, I don’t want to know. You could tell me how my heart works (which science has) and it’s titillating to know, but knowing how the heart works is hardly going to enable me to suddenly keep the muscle ticking away until I revel in immortality. Knowing about how something works is not the elan vital of creating. It’s the not-knowing that brings things to life; be it a story or a painting … or even the expanding universe.
If the universe can be made up of mostly dark matter and energy (as scientist keep finding out), then I’m ok with the dark matter behind creativity. It fact, it’s precisely because of the numinous when it comes to creating that I create in the first place. As Henry Miller has so succinctly put it: “The waking mind, you see, is the least serviceable in the arts. In the process of writing one is struggling to bring out what is unknown to himself. To put down merely what one is conscious of means nothing, really, gets one nowhere. Anybody can do that with a little practice, anybody can become that kind of writer.”