Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Live with an expectation of inspiration
A flower never is just a flower. A sunset is more than celestial mathematics. A poem is greater than the sum of its rhymes.
Beneath the surface, there always is a hidden meaning. Behind the noise, there’s a pure tone, a carrier wave of truth.
The artist seeks the mystery, the writer poses the question, the musician unleashes emotions — though in each case, the answer will be different for each viewer, reader or listener.
I got the opportunity to reflect on these concepts in public last Sunday, as I made myself available at the Bay County Public Library, where I joined local mystery author Michael Lister for a discussion, reading and book launch. Michael was debuting his latest 1940s noir novel, “The Big Beyond,” and invited me for an open-ended talk about writing, creativity and life.
I read from my current project, which I'm calling "Giants in the Earth."
Michael referred to the moment when everything comes together as a “lightning bolt.” He wasn’t referencing some “eureka” instant of inspiration, but rather the experience when all the pieces you have gathered — all the myriad of facts, feelings and ideas you have explored — suddenly fit into a greater whole.
It doesn’t happen by accident. You must prepare the way by steadily working, and open yourself to the moment. The secret is to look deeper, to listen closer — not just being aware, but also making yourself available for the universe.
And as you seek, feed the furnace of your brain, exercise your creative muscles, tilt at windmills — so that when the connections begin to reveal themselves and that elusive lightning bolt is looking for a place to manifest, you are prepared.
The day following our talk, I interviewed artist and longtime friend John Russo, who also mentioned how inspiration is something one has to pursue. If you wait for it, you could find yourself waiting all your life, he said.
The lightning can find you, sure, even huddled indoors. But if you want to improve your chances, you have to chase the storm, and then stand on the hill and hold a metal rod toward the heavens. Sometimes it helps if you challenge the wind, rage against the night.
You have to court it. You have to, at the very least, live in a state of availability to the muse. To seek.
(And you must acknowledge that the lightning, when it comes, could destroy you. Don’t be fooled: We live in a constant state of being and becoming, one heartbeat shy of nothingness. It’s the same in life as in art.)
The burst of inspiration can be a dangerous thing. It can change our lives, especially when we actively fall into synch with the universe.
(This was my Undercurrents column for PanamaCity.com and The News Herald this week.)