I used to know someone who played classical guitar. He practiced every day, in the living room, in practice rooms, in the lobby of anywhere he had to wait. His fingers gently picked the strings, hugged them tight.
He used to tell me that all I had to do was practice, just write, maybe even for four hours a day like him. At least I imagined him thinking that 4 hours was the magic formula for all things artistic.
But he, he began with music, with those bulbous notes and spindly arms of the ideas someone else had already crafted. He had a starting place. And an ending one.
Writers do not have that, as composers do not, or painters, or sculptors. We begin from nothing, grabbing down words or colors from the ether. Perhaps this is why so many people think that “inspiration” is the answer and the excuse – that it is too hard to consider that we could just find that ethereal thing and capture it with fingers. So we must wait for that thing to reach us, slide into our mouths or our forearms like invasion.
I have not found inspiration to be that way. In fact, I have not found inspiration at all. Instead, I stare at the computer screen until it goes black, raking my fingers over my still sleepy face, finally giving into the pen and the words – pushing aside the incessant thinking.
The walk that becomes so engrossing because of the burnt embers of the unmowed pasture. The 2am low of a cow. The quiet lift of a story heard, or watched, or read, and the way it slides into your throat and stays there, sweet and steady. The line of poetry or the sentence that is invisibly bolded with meaning. The turn of a key from major to minor that mirrors the spin of a life.
The things that give us words and images and paint and the soft song of a riff.
They are always there, to inspire perhaps, more to just be there, a life on the earth. Not for me but open, available. The 10 lines of a musical staff as wide as the sky.
What do you grab and write from today?
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