I don’t believe in the muse any more than I believe in writer’s block. I believe in hard work, regular
hours, good diet and plenty of exercise. I believe that in a well-ordered life there is room neither for inspiration nor despair but only solid graft, ruthless discipline and a robust attitude to failure. If I got up early and sat at my desk for a solid eight hours a day, I am quite certain I would write a lot of books and I would be much more successful.
It is perhaps surprising then that I struggle with the well-ordered life and am quite prone to apparent moments of inspiration, and then months of arid days when putting one word in front of another seems like a long, forced march to nowhere. Obviously, this isn’t surprising if you have ever met me or read any of my previous blogs, but even I find the gulf between what I believe about creativity and what I experience slightly disconcerting.
About four years ago I set my self the task of writing a poem a day for a year and asking friends and fellow writers to join in. It was huge fun, but didn’t produce much of any poetic value: a couple were published in a small magazine and one made it into a rather lovely hardback collection by Eyewear, but most were as disposable as loo roll (though significantly less necessary.) Some of the daily poems were modified and used to accompany my sister’s exhibition of paintings in Sydney, but the quality of the paintings made me embarrassed for my puerile little poems so I haven’t written any poetry since. That is until I couldn’t do anything else.
In early July as the temperature outside hit Mediterranean heights, I was suddenly attacked by an irresistible urge to write poetry. I have written no prose for about a month and for a week or two everything I saw seemed plump and pregnant with poetic potential. I had to write sonnets, villanelles, sestinas and free verse. It was lovely if a little demanding: I’d wake in the night with an idea, restless with creativity and heat rash.
The urge has gone now as inexplicably as it came. I’ve sobered up from whatever heightened state possessed me. My idea stream has slowed to its usual grudging trickle and, sadly, the poems I wrote in the full flow seem less lustrous, altogether more obvious and banal than they appeared in the golden glow of my unexpected enthusiasm.
I don’t believe in the muse any more than I believe in writer’s block, but I do believe that the human brain is a very weird thing. Now that I‘m back to my normal prosaic self, I am struggling to account for my strange passion. I am also more than a little bereft: back to staring blankly at even blanker screen
So, in the absence of a muse, tomorrow I’ll be at my desk early, trying out the graft approach…