I had a thought this week about the core of a writer’s inspiration or drive. I used to think there were a few writers that went about their art in an orderly fashion, making little piles and sticky notes of ideas and dreams, thoughts and overheard quirkiness, and they would eventually sit themselves down and make something of these. I couldn’t relate to those folks. I thought I was part of the majority of writers and we were all lunatic geniuses or possessed. A sort of collection of disturbing savants that readers don’t always associate with some of the resulting masterpieces they come to cradle like babies.
Here’s an example: someone sparks an emotion in me and it hooks onto an idea (similar or not) and enforceable yanks my doppelganger (the little shadow-woman that lives inside of me) until it writes it all down … drips it all out, extinguishes the fire. Here’s another example from the opposite side of that spectrum: I get my feelings hurt or I go into a deep depression and the shadow-woman trails me everywhere, looms over me in my sleep, trips me for the hell of it, and generally makes my life a living frightmare until I exorcise whatever daemon in the form of a poem or prose. Either way, I might go for days, weeks even, without a productive writing day, but when it comes there is steam on the windows when my hands leave the keyboard.
Having made contact with a few writers and a poet now, I’m beginning to think there are innumerable kinds of shadow men and women, muses, sticky-note methodology, prompt tooling and daily regimens, possessions, and general mayhem when it comes to the spark that turns a writer’s hand to paper. I don’t understand writers that function differently from me, and that’s okay, I guess.
What’s my point?
If there are possibly as many kinds of … I’ll call them “instigators,” … as there are writers, then maybe it’s like finding a mate? What would my daemons do if I started trying on freewriting non-stop, or turned my radio on every morning and used the first ten words I heard as a prompt? I’m not talking about the occasional dry spell where I try these kinds of things to hunt for my shadow-woman. I simply wonder if Shakespeare would have been Shakespeare if he’d put aside his usual writing method and tried on something else for a year. Maybe some other Bill would have been a household name if he’d tried Shakespeare’s.
But don’t mind me, I also sit around wondering how the author of Annie got away with stealing Dicken’s Oliver Twist story?
They were shapely when they first appeared,
spry and plump with meaning, swift in flow,
sniffing at my eyelids, primed to go.
I stopped moving, still, as each one neared.
Hoped to lure their wild before they feared.
Flanking them in ink, but moving slow,
freshly fallen idea flakes of snow
sprinkled me with shivers as I peered.
Witness to a miracle each time
words caress my head and spring my thought.
Bounding lines, the speeding of my heart,
playing into pens of perfect rhyme.
Form and verse exploring, nearly caught,
out of nowhere, prancing herd of art.
Working on my business plan (I will soon post some resources I’ve found for those of you interested), still not at the end of my commitment here in Idaho, and this morning as I’m preparing to leave for work when the following poem flooded my brain. I couldn’t walk out the door without first racing to my mac and getting it down before I lost it. This is the madness of how my procrastination (in going to work) happens. Still, I’m just so thankful for this gift. Needs some work, but thought I’d share. Reminds me of how Spiderman was made.
this is how it happened
as I lay beneath a cloud,
a rainy mist that formed a shroud
descended to my haptic loud.
engulfed me whole;
swallowed my protected soul
and spit me out
(not feeling thirsty in a drought),
but left me changed,
not quite deranged,
painted gifts that left me strange.
made my thinking twisted round –
blocky reason had no sound.
made me swim in music sheets –
crisp and moving rhythmic beats.
and all at once I touched a blank
and flooded word trains like a tank
invading fields of poppies bright.
a lyric frenzy made me write
poetic verse all through the night,
and in the morning when I woke
my veins were smoke –
as if a stranger took a poke
into the rivers
(my flowing rhyme-laced honey givers).
A genius raised, a shroud of mist –
A muse amazed, a writer kissed –
From blue veined structures, lyrics flow.
Into a bloodlet cistern go
The drippings of a mind possessed –
Such humors best to have confessed
Onto the page where readers drink
Transfusions of vampiric ink.
They get their fill; they breath the words,
And bits of meaning flit like birds.
Into their daily highs and lows
A writer’s rhythmic weather goes.
In the darkness of the hollow,
In the wistful of the day,
Comes a gnashing of the Daemon
And the trouncing of the Bay.
Leaves a mark upon the features;
Plants a hook into the soul.
Wants for loathing or self-hatred -
Wants for wrecking of the lull.
Choose the sinews of the monster -
Horse of death, devoid of light.
If you mount its mangy hackles
It will drag you into night.
Little solitude can linger
At a time depression fraught.
Either gallops gloom of gloaming
Or a crafty concept caught.
Makes for drowsy or for writing.
Curl it in or fight it out:
Tender tears to taint and tarnish,
Fiendish fierceness flail and flout.
Choose the dark and dangerous Daemon -
Vapor’s Muse of shadow’s glare.
Touch its fissured flesh of genius,
Share its mind, but have a care.
Whirling skirmish with a dark muse.
Wrestling pen, now paper stained.
Bleeds a vicious prose or poem;
Heals the heart and mind, once pained.
It’s a bird’s eye view I get – on the drive to and from work. I hit play on my iPod and listen to the latest book I’m into; then maybe two or three minutes in, I’m off on a tangent. Could have been a word that tripped my trigger. Could have been a concept, like “calling a friend,” or “a tsunami in Malaysia,” and I’m outside the car window, traipsing through the tundra with light bulbs and peppermints.
I know all the twists and curves by now. I seem to leave the mechanical part of my body, muscle-memory activated, at the wheel when I go on these side trips. Sometimes I don’t know how I manage not to get a speeding ticket, or how I avoid hitting a cow standing in the road. But when I drift into the cockpit, the speedometer is always right at 50. I don’t have cruise control. My foot just knows by now, I guess.
A delicious word spoken by the narrator and I’m off on another errand of make-believe. I eventually got wise, and nowadays I cue my phone’s voice recorder before I pull out onto the road. I never remember it all the right way later. It’s a bird’s eye view I get, on those winding roads, into my storytelling superpower.
Now, if I could just find my damn cape.