Return of the Muse

It happened, as I knew it would, sooner or later. It always does. My writer’s block lifted (for no particular reason I can come up with) and my creativity has come rushing back to fill the void. It was nice. It felt good to get my groove back, if you know what I mean.

I never really doubted it would return. It always has before, after all. I didn’t believe I would never again be able to write a piece of creative fiction. The question was only whether I would be patient enough to let it return.

Creativity can be like a romantic interest: you have to let it go sometimes. If it was truly yours, it will come back to you. If it doesn’t return, it was never yours to begin with.

In other words, don’t press too hard.

Dealing with my occasional bouts of writer’s block (about two relatively serious ones a year, give or take) has given me plenty of time to think about this whole concept of creativity, especially when it comes to the creative arts. (There are all sorts of other manners of creativity, but I’m not talking about creative accounting here).

So where does creativity come from? Why do I write short stories and novels, but my neighbor not only doesn’t, but can’t? I’d like to think I’m special, but I’m really not out of the ordinary. I’d hardly cause anyone to think twice if they passed me on the street. But I do write stories, poetry, and novels. Why?

Because I have to. It’s what I do.

That doesn’t mean I know where the creativity comes from. I just know how it feels when it works right. So do other creative types. I’ve heard people talk about being “in the zone” when the story seems to “write itself.” Others have described it as though there were a vast flowing stream of story running invisible through the ether; they were just tapping into the stream. Still others—this includes myself at times—describe the process as if the story existed somewhere “out there” and we were just the medium it used to gain form. We were channeling basically.

It all sounds kind of mystical, doesn’t it? As though we creators were merely the pawns of some power greater than mere mortals. Doesn’t it? In other words, we the creators of art, whether it is fiction and poetry, paintings, sculpture, music, or any other type of artistic endeavor, really have no idea how the creativity works, or where it comes from. It just is.

All the workshops in the world, all the writing manuals and guides, all the how-to’s are very good at teaching us how to harness our creativity. They help us train that creativity to do what we want. (Kind of.) Some of them are very good at this, very helpful.

But there are no books or workshops, no classes that can truly teach a non-creative person to become creative. You pretty much either have it, or you don’t.

So is it any wonder that the ancient Greeks (a fairly creative people, by the way) came up with deities to explain where the creativity came from? Ever since (for some 2500 years) we have written, painted, and composed at the whim of the Muses. And isn’t the concept of a Muse pretty much the same thing as tapping into an invisible stream of story flowing unnoticed through the ether? Either way, it is an ability that we find largely out of our control. It’s somewhere out there. If we are worthy, or lucky, it will continue to bestow its blessings on us.

Whatever, the origins, when I get into “the zone” and it seems less like I’m writing the story than just channeling it from somewhere else, the feeling is amazing. Indescribable. Unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. And for that I am grateful.

Perhaps, in the end, that is all we need. To be grateful.


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