Again I wonder whether anything edifying, inspiring, or otherwise "alive" will ever flow from my pen or keyboard.
But then, I've been wondering that for decades now, and something always has. That's the miracle, isn't it, writers? We're sort of junkies for that creative hit. At least, I am. But it's not the kind of addiction I'd enter a 12-step group for.
I WAS once in a 12-step group for artists. You may have heard of, or even belong to, ARTS Anonymous. People were always asking, "Why would anyone want to stop creating art?" The answer, of course, is that this is one 12-step group that is about supporting something, not abstaining from it. The "abstentions" are from insecurity, low self- esteeem, and other such art-denying states.
I'm not currently going to meetings, but I continue to deal with the issue. I see my deeper self as a boundless reservoir of creativity. I've enough experience of "creative surprises" under my belt to know that's true. I take my stand on one of my favorite sentences in the English language, from Meher Baba: "To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others by expressing, in the world of forms, truth, love, purity and beauty, is the sole game that has any absolute and intrinsic worth."
And so my job is to "stay in shape", so to speak, for accessing that inner essence where all symbols, poetry, imagination, and for that matter, humor reside. What can keep me out? Or better yet, what can let me in? Well, first off is honesty. I don't have to be a Saint, but my life has to have a sense of integrity, a kind of coherence, for those internal gates to open. Then, to actively keep in touch with that "place", I meditate.
After that, it seems to be a matter of what you could call "the Muse's whim"! I have several images I've used for the process of waiting and then finding a creative stream to ride. Some years back I lived in New Jersey, which, contrary to its popular image, is not all oil refineries and chemical factories. There was a small stand of woods behind our apartment complex. I would frequently walk there, and when sitting at a library or coffeehouse before a blank page--this was before I had a computer, although even now I often use a notebook and pen for a first draft--I would imagine going out to the woods and finding (this part was entirely imaginary) a red, brick wall blocking my progress. I would follow the wall around in one direction...it seemed to be circular...holding a hand or a stick against it as I walked. Then suddenly, after awhile--voila! I was inside! And in that realm, the stories and poems abounded, practically like berries you could pick.
Sometimes the creative urge takes one by surprise! I have fond memories of a story I wrote, which I eventually titled "Another Ordinary Day", while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike to New York City. I started imagining, who knows from where, a family so clueless that when they had breakfast together each person, instead of taking a portion of every dish and leaving the rest for someone else, would "claim" a whole dish for him or herself! (The sentence that resulted in the completed story was: "Fred got the eggs; his brother Mervyn had the toast; Father wolfed down the potatoes, and Mother drank up the coffee--which was decaffinated, by the way."
Imagining the scene I'd just created in my mind, I found myself laughing so uproariously that it was hard, although not impossible, to keep driving! And they say, "The way the author feels while writing is how the reader will feel, reading."
The story kept unfolding in my mind, and I realized I had a choice! Part of me cautions, "Don't try this at home, kids!" But a lot of you will recognize the situation: a poem or story is at hand and it's happening NOW! Trying to re-create it later will lost that freshness.
So I kept driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, and I got some papers out of my shoulder bag on the passenger's seat, and I started writing, folding a page and resting it on the steering wheel as I drove! Frankly, I don' t know how I did it! But I got down the whole story, then put the pages aside until I got to the tunnel to the City.
I'm not saying I'm proud of myself. But in a way I am, for honoring the creative process in the only way possible, in that moment. Sometimes, that's the way it seems to be.