There is something to be said about true inspiration dear reader. True inspiration is that spark of a fantastic idea, that lightning that rushes through you--I think inspiration is the lifesblood of writing. And then there's motivation. If inspiration is writing's lifesblood, motivation is the body inspiration courses through.
But what happens when your inspiration has begun to flicker down from a flaming fire to a soft ember? What happens when you loose all motivation to write? You could try the categorically standard actions that help you to get inspired/motivated (this is not that kinda of post), but sometimes, even when the page calls, you simply cannot muster up the words.
When this happens, and it happens often, I look back to my English senior seminar and the foundation book for the whole semester, Tillie Olsen's Silences:
By exploring the social and economic conditions that make creativity possible, Olsen sheds new light into the gaps in the literary landscape and canon. She reveals that working-class people, people of color, and all women have in fact always written--though their work has been officially ignored--and she examines the forces they have struggled against in order to create, forces that led in many cases to premature silence.
Now I will not compare myself with the literary giants: there is no need to go there dear reader. To say my strife equals that of Christina Rossetti or Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, or any other female writer, is ignorant and not why I bring up Silences. In the text, Olsen breaks down the conditions which make creativity possible, and thus, what makes creativity impossible. And today, I won't even be touching the political and social silences that can occur once one is looking for publishing, or is published. Today, I'm just looking at three of the forces which can effect the act of writing, and can lead to the silencing of a writer before anything is published. Silences is literary philosophy at its best, dear reader, and I love it.
"The Knife of the perfectionist attitude in art and life."
So often as writers, and as women, we strive for our personal best all the time. And if you've read many quotes by writers, they say the most important part is to just get the words on paper. You do not need the clean perfection of a finished novel, just the ghastly roughness of a first draft. And while this concept: word vomit first, clean it up later, sounds logical and can be effective, I find that if I don't feel like I'm going to write something at least worth writing, I simply won't click the keys. And then nothing gets written, because I don't think I'll write anything good at the time. The point though, is if you do this every time...when are we actually writing? Certainly, less than we want to be.
"Constant toil is the law of art, as it is of life."
To be good, if not brilliant, in something, you must practice--you must devote a large part of your life to perfecting what you practice. And for many of us blossoming writers, we do not get enough practice. Novel writing has a very long incubation time. There can be years spent working on the same story before anyone ever sets eyes on a draft. And then the revisions begin. Unless you actively work on your writing, piece by piece, acknowledging your obstacles and striving to overcome them consistently "the artist assists the suicide of his own talent..." (Silences, 154). No wonder this force is under "The work of creations and the Circumstances it Demands for Full Functioning". I look at this silences not just as actively committing to your art, but also having the ability to devote time to your commitment. Likewise, having the ability to self-critique and the perseverence to do so.
Dear reader, please tell me the last time you had a day--a whole day--where you were able to feel refreshed, fulfilled, and unburdened with the stress of one's stressful life, to simply write. Unconfined Solitude does not just mean having a quiet space and time to write, it also means the structure of an environment where motivation and inspiration are able to meet on demand; it means mental solitude in combination with physical solitude. The quote by Nathaniel Hawthorne printed in Silences highlights this idea perfectly: "I doubt I shall succeed in writing here, I have not the sense of perfect seclusion which has always been essential to my power of producing anything."
For me, it all boils down to time and solitude. By the end of a very long 12 hour work day, where I've lost beautiful sentences--unable to write them down, and even more beautiful plot points--where the busy work day replays in my head: I simply do not have enough motivation, or even energy, to write. And every time this happens, and oh it has happens so many days, I think back to Olsen and am continually astounded by the women (and men) who rise above what I'm lost in. And on those blissful days, when motivation strikes and I stay up late, rattling amongst the keys, I never take the moment for granted because I know how easily I could loose it. And I mourn for all the beautiful novels, poems, short stories, and art which has been silenced because an artist did just that, lost it.
Now you might say, that I'm blaming living life for my own personal deficiency, my own lack of motivation. And I can own up to that. Yes, at the end of the day it is my personal choice to write or not write. Physical exhaustion or parched creativity is not a good reason (insert name of blog here...). And many have criticized Silences as well, stating this same argument. I argue then, we change the context: say you work an impossibly long day, you come home and all you want to do is watch your favorite TV show, but you have to make dinner, and wash clothes, and there are another 10 things on your to do list, and by the time you're able to watch your 10PM show, you've missed half of it and are too tired to care about the other half. You give up and go to bed. In the morning, you're sorry you missed the show, but think you'll be able to watch it again in a few days and other "real life things" got done in the process. A few days later, you miss the show because you have a meeting, and after the meeting, you realize you won't catch it again and another episode is airing. You can't watch the next one without seeing the one you missed. So you stop watching. 3, 4 episodes go by and now you're no longer connected emotionally to the show or its characters, so you just let the whole show go. Of no fault of your own, because you thought you'd have time later, you've given up your favorite TV show. And sure, you could catch it on marathon, but think of how much you've missed out on, watching it week to week, how much time you've wasted missing out, and the marathon will never be the same as watching it week after week. Can you see the parallels? See where time and good intentions and everything else seemed to get in the way and now you've lost time? This is the kind of slow death I fear for my writing, the almost indescribable oblivion Olsen touches on in Silences. When writing is unable to be a primary focus in your day to day life, there will always be a fear of loosing it to the every day minutia of living.
And my literary rambling is over for today. And despite best intentions, I have a feeling, the novel doc won't be opened tonight.