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Thursday, December 11, 2008

the muse

      I told one of my favorite people in the world that I was going to call it an early night tonight. And I was. I was in bed, wearing my ridiculous mint green matching-top-and-bottom pajamas by midnight. I was snuggled and ready for sleep to claim me. 


      But then I started listening to Over the Rhine. And suddenly the muse claimed me and I had to get out of bed, ridiculous PJ's and all, go down to my piano and write.  See, when that happens, it is a case of whistle and I'll come to you, my lad. I can't say no.  I can't simply roll over and expect it to happen another time. You know, when it's more convenient.  Maybe when I look less ridiculous.  Maybe when my feet aren't quite so cold.  Nope, when it calls like that, I simply must acquiesce.  Sure, change out of the pajamas if you want to (I didn't), turn on the space heater if you need to (I don't own one, though I wish I did--my feet are really cold), but go.  Write. 

      It was that Something, Someone, muse--whatever you want to call it--that got me up and out of my bed late at night to write my first poem.  I still remember the first line,  

            Soft as a pillow, yet hard as a rock...

           Okay, so it doesn't make so much sense now, but at 9 or 10 I thought it was quite profound.  And after finishing the poem, I was glad I had gotten up, glad I had taken up my pen and sat at my parent's kitchen table and written.  
      
            But see, something happens when I finish creating--especially when writing a song, actually. It's like I've emptied out all of my contemplations and creative inspirations into the melody, lyric, and chord progression and have nothing left to give.  Like if I were a blood donor, I would have been notified that I had just given an almost dangerous amount of blood and had to simply sit and restore for a while.  

       And so I do.  Or rather, don't. Do restore, don't write. You know what I mean.  

       And that is why it somewhat surprises me when I write again. I thought I had already given all of it; I didn't know there was more.  But thank God there is. 

        Does this sort of thing happen to anybody else? 

         Oh, but let me say one more thing: I am a firm believer in putting a demand on your gift and simply exercising it regularly. So you don't feel that special muse romancing you at night, filling your head with lyrics that rhyme effortlessly and chords that fit together all neat and scientifically accurate like a jigsaw puzzle.  So what. You are an artist, do what it is you do; or even what it is you wish you did. Even if for a time, it has to be done without feeling the poetry of it.  

    But I must say, it is really nice when you feel the poetry; when you feel the momentum building inside of you to the point where you couldn't not write a song if you tried. Or painted. Or danced. Or told a story. Or creatively solved a problem. Or told a joke that made someone laugh so hard that they didn't need to do ab work for a week. Or whatever it is you do...

16 comments:

Mom said...

I talk about the same kind of process but I'm referring to coming up with teachings and the Muse is the Holy Spirit and He doesn't mind getting me up in the middle of the night; in fact, I think He enjoys it! And, I agree, even when the Muse doesn't come around, we still need to work at our gifts and practice. Very interesting blog today.

beingawesome said...

I think that anyone who is truly creative will have that sense of being completely emptied after writing something.

Honestly, that feeling of the "spark of creation" is what keeps me going day-to-day. Without it, my life would be so incredibly mundane.

I love the fact that you never quite know when it's going to strike either.

One of those gifts that keeps on giving :)

christine said...

You know how I was going to go to bed also...well, 1:00 was not what I had in mind. And unfortunately, I didn't have such a wonderful evening of writing inspired songs. I had to work on the kids' directory because my graphic artist was working on ads that are due today and I wanted to be able to give him feedback. Oh well, I guess my muse was work (if that's possible) last night although I would have preferred yours or Lynn's for sure : )

jason said...

Were you listening to their christmas albums? They're both great!

Jessica Latshaw said...

actually, I was watching the music video to their song, Desperate for Love. I don't have either of their christmas albums, but maybe I will buy them right now, actually!

Jessica Latshaw said...

just bought Snow Angels...so excited to listen to it!

peaj said...

Sometimes, a song must simply be sung, and explored to its conclusion. Can't stop it - well, I can, but you know what I mean. This sometimes happens much to the eye-rolling amusement or irritation of my wife (depending on her mood).

Sometimes - and this is really scary - a computer program simply must be written. Or I have to figure out the answer to a technical problem. I have to discover how to do what has captured my attention, no matter what else I was previously doing. There will be part of me saying "I really don't have time to be working on this now," and another part will say "but I have to know!"

Jessica Latshaw said...

exactly, I know what you mean--and sleep, or other responsible things are put on hold while you do what it is you need to do!

mine said...

I've carried a note pad in my purse for as long as I can remember for just this reason. I remember walking through the mall when I was a teenager or, later, walking to my car in the parking garage and having a sudden onslaught of thoughts that would overwhelm me to the point that wherever I was I had to stop, whip out my notepad and write until all of 'it' was realized in ink or lead. I still have everything I've written tucked in books and files (now spread in storage facilities all over the country!) and each time I come across one of my creations - I remember exactly where I was and all the feelings come rushing back like an often ignored but never forgotten friend. I cherish those moments - those minutes (or even hours) lost in my uncluttered, un-stressful, simple world of space and words.

Michele said...

Sadly for me, I'm not sure I've experienced this unction. :( Way to make me feel like a loser, Jess :)

kathiek said...

I am still learning how to put a demand on my gift...it's a rather large learning curve.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Mine--yes, I totally understand; what a great and cathartic way to deal with life and how it makes us feel.

MICHELE!!! you are the most UN-loser-like person I know!!! No more of that now--not on my blog and not on my watch;-)

And Kathie--yes, and there is lots of grace along the way or all of us.

jason said...

I would like to add that it isn't always like this possession that takes you over and the song / story / poem / program MUST be written. It can be like that. But people who wait for this don't create very much at all, because that's rare. Far more common for me are the moments where I force myself to make something, and then what MUST be made emerges. It's like you have to awaken your muse sometimes. Or even work without your muse in hopes that she'll show up at some point and look over what you've done.

Pop said...

Somebody said creative output is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. I agree with Jason: that flush of inspiration, wonderful as it is, is probably not the norm for most successful creative people. The Muse also beckons, it seems, when you just decide to start writing/dancing/scultping/etc; she meets you in the process...not all the time I suppose, but often. Books have been written about kinds of creativity--interesting reads I'm sure.

Jessica Latshaw said...

Pop and Jase (the dynamic duo!--Yes I absolutely agree! there are things that I have done, not because of this creative inspiration, but because I HAD to, and they are some of my favorite things.

Take, for instance, the songs I have written for the christmas plays you wrote, Jase--I never would have done that on my own, but I am so glad I had to )or rather, was asked to), because then I did. So, yes--I don't think people should wait to be inspired to do something; otherwise, we could be waiting forever.

Sometimes you just have to start, and trust that the inspiration/creativity will follow.

jason said...

For me, once I've decided to tell a story, and actually start writing the pages, thats when the magic starts. And sometimes the magic doesn't start, at least in a way I can feel, but then I look back at what I wrote anyway, and I realize it did start. It's like that poem Footprints! The muse was there all along, only carrying me!