Writing And The Muse
February 5, 2015
How did I come to be known as a “writer?” I wonder sometimes, when and where did this happen?
Currently, I don’t make my living as a writer but at the place where I work I am called upon to “write” and even “design” things. Okay, I’ll admit, they have seen the work I contribute to FOCUS. But, essentially, the word “writer” does not appear in my job description. I work with the public, answer the phones, take care of transportation issues, etc. But, when the need arises, I am the “writer.”
I’ve always believed, perhaps falsely, that my primary form of communication is the written word. I can speak well, but I write better. When you put a pencil to paper it’s well, the best way to describe it is to quote Rolling Stone Keith Richards, a man, who in his old age, I’ve come to greatly admire for his ability to remain true to himself, his stamina, creativity, and originality. This is what he says about writing songs: “It’s not something you retire from. It’s your life writing songs and playing is like breathing - you don’t stop.” I read that bit of wisdom and thought, “Spot on, man. That’s writing!”
I have emphatically stated on numerous occasions that writing for me is a hobby, not a life’s ambition or a way to make a living. It’s something I enjoy doing. I love it. I am now at the age where I balk when someone asks or tells me to write something. It’s like the old stoner says, either I’m in the mood to write or I’m not. I prefer to do it at my leisure.
I made a living in newspaper writing, editing and taking photos for 17 years, with no journalism degree, no high level photography skills and no formal graphic design experience. Then, after I worked at every newspaper I found an interest in, I quit and moved on to something else. Yep, just like that, I turned off the tap. Sometimes you’ve got to take a break from doing the thing you love. It certainly puts it into perspective to gaze upon it from afar. Then, when you return to it, the love and appreciation you have for it knows no bounds.
Hence, after a lengthy break ten years ago, or so, I picked up the pen again. But where does the inspiration to write come from? Again, I quote the venerable Mr. Richards, or “Keef” as he is affectionately known. On creativity and writing he says, “You keep searching for things you haven’t heard ... ‘I don’t go, I created this!’ ... I feel that you receive songs. I never sit down and say, ‘Right, now I’m going to write a song.’ I just sit around and play either piano or guitar ... Buddy Holly ... Hoagy Carmichael ... But usually after twenty minutes or so the fingers are moving somewhere else and you go, ‘Incoming!’ “
Quite right! That’s the way it is. “A painter’s got a canvas. The writer’s got reams of paper. A musician has silence,” Richards has said.
I’ve been an artist, I like to paint. I know what it’s like to stand before a blank canvas and wonder what will come of it. I can hum a tune, but always to something someone else has written. But reams of paper? That’s something I’ve got!
The thing is, writing is not something you can just sit down and do automatically, it’s comes to you from divine inspiration. You wait for it, you pick it out of the air, you catch it on the wind or you respond to it whispering loudly in your ear.
In this particular case I had an itch to write something but I had nothing of substance to write about. I see small vignettes of life every day I would like to write about, but there’s just not enough there to create an entire story. There’s the beauty of a clear winter’s night sky, full of stars; or, the way the faces of my dogs light up when I return home at the end of the day; the intoxicating aroma of a fresh, hot cup of coffee; the way ocean air smells, even from a distance away; the smell of a summer squall; or the way I feel when I see people share tenderness of emotion.
Recently, one Friday evening, as I was traveling home from work, I passed a veterinary clinic and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a man, his wife and young daughter encircled around a large dog in the bed of a pickup truck in the parking lot. I could tell by the demeanor of this small family and the near lifelessness of the dog that this was a sacred moment. As I passed by them I knew the situation was one every family dreads, the passing of a loved one. It stuck in my mind. It still does, I see it vividly. I wondered did anyone else capture this intimate moment? I felt like an accidental intruder while cruising by at a speed of 40 mph. From one brief span of time I gleaned the life a dog well-lived, a family pet that was likely acquired before the little girl was born. She had probably known the dog forever. I could sense the angst of the dog’s owners and their resignation to let their beloved pet go. It’s moments such as this I collect in my mind, wishing I could write about them but there’s not enough substance there to construct a piece on them. (And, yet, I just did.)
So, the muse finally spoke to me on beautiful sunny winter Sunday morning. “Write about writing,” was the message my mental antenna was picking up. Admittedly, having read Keith Richards’ autobiography entitled “Life,” as well as the unauthorized book, “What would Keith Richards do? Daily Affirmations from a Rock ‘n’ Roll Survivor,” by Jessica Pallington West, I was inspired. I don’t know, perhaps Keith Richards himself is my muse! I’ve grown into my elder years having experienced the enigma of the man.
I started the journey as a writer at age 25. Will I ever give it up? Again, I turn to the wizened Richards, “You don’t want to analyze it too much, because in the process you can lose it.” Quite right, Keef.