This week I didn’t publish a post on Monday as I had nothing to say. Told this to a friend and she tried to give me ideas, but ideas are never my problem, I have plenty of those, I can’t write until I can write, I told her.
This morning, I saw this from Smaggle.
“True creativity comes from love of your chosen medium. I don’t think anyone can be a great writer unless they truly love writing.”
And I realised I didn’t agree. I’m just not like that. I don’t love writing. I don’t love painting, or any of my other creative outlets. I don’t have a love of any medium – I just do them.
The poet Ruth Stone once told Elizabeth Gilbert that growing up she would feel and hear a poem thundering across the landscape at her and she had to run like hell to a pen and a paper to capture the poem as it flowed through her. Sometimes she wouldn’t be fast enough and she would miss it, it would pass through her then continue across the landscape to find another poet. Sometimes she would catch it just as it passed through her and have to grab it by the tail and pull it back, resulting in the poem appearing on the page perfect but backwards from the last word to the first.
This possibly doesn’t sound too familiar to many of you, and in Elizabeth Gilbert’s retelling of this story everyone laughed, but it strongly resonated with me and I’ve never forgotten it.
That is exactly what writing is for me. That is actually how many things in my life are for me, which is why I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of myself as an artist, as a writer. I’m not. I am just a vessel for the external creative genius to flow through me.
So the idea that Elizabeth Gilbert put forward of us returning to the Ancient Roman way of viewing creative genius as an external divine being or force, rather than something that comes from the individual itself, strongly appealed to me. Creative people weren’t a genius, they had a genius.
I don’t love writing, I don’t. That may be controversial, particularly in the blogging world where so many people truly love their craft and they want to get up and do nothing but write every day, even when they have to strap themselves down and squeeze their brains until there is blood on the page.
I write because something tells me to. I write because the words appear in my head and I know I have to get them out, write them down, or they will disappear.
Over the years I have learnt to control it to some extent. Occasionally I’ve been able to tell it “Wait, come back to me at another time” and it will. But often it doesn’t. Or it does, but a year or two later when something sparks it again. Sometimes my blog posts start in the middle because that’s when I was able to get my hands on a keyboard or pen and paper and after I’ve finished the post I have to go back to the beginning and fill in the rest. Sometimes I only get a few words, a few ideas down, and there are a million of these partially formed fragments sitting in my drafts.
It’s one of the reasons I write so quickly – I have to frantically get the words down before they disappear and they flow through me as quickly as I can speak, rather than at a pace that’s cohesive for writing them out in any coherent way.
And, if I’m honest, this is one of the many reasons I’m too afraid to quit my job and go to blogging full time. Or commit to making birthday cards, paintings, or any other consumable that could be sold on Etsy that I could make some kind of living from. I can’t tell you when I will be able to write something new. When I will be able to paint something, draw something, make something. I have to wait for the creative genius to visit me.
It doesn’t come from me, it comes from somewhere else.
How does your creative genius visit you? Do you have to force yourself to write, does it flow through you, can you control it?