A lot of Pagans I’ve encountered like to give offerings to our Gods – some offer physical objects, like wine and mead, some offer crafts they’ve created, like altar cloths, and some offer their talent, like singers. Being a writer, I do the latter.
When you’re working in a creative field yourself, maybe you’ve also felt this sudden pull to take that notebook or sketch pad and paint or write down this unexpected new idea. Perhaps you – just like me – have wondered where these ideas, this art of ours comes from.
Clearly, some of it is inspired by other works of art I encounter. When I was still at school, I read a lot – about one to two novels a week. Today, I don’t have as much free time, but I still try to read as much as I can, at least the new works of my favourite writers. And I attend a Creative Writing course once a week, where I can present my writing, get feedback and also get new ideas. But one question still remains: Where does this divine spark to create something new come from?
I like to think about this in terms of my muse (cf. King 2000): He lives in an old, run-down changing room in a theatre (don’t ask me why he likes to hang out there; but I’ve never seen him anywhere else). He looks a little like Jim Morrison, with wavy brown curls, and always wears a white v-necked shirt and faded blue jeans. When he helps me out with a story, I pay him in whiskey or similar hard alcohol. But I have to keep up my part of the bargain – when he sends me that inspiration, I have to write it down and acknowledge it, even if it means getting up at 3am and searching for a pen and notebook.
You could say that when I’m talking to my muse, what I’m essentially doing is talking to my own subconscious which, for some unfathomable reason, likes to dress up as Jim Morrison’s look-alike. But be that as it may, I wonder how our Gods feature in this process. After all, Odin grants the mead of poetic inspiration; in the Celtic pantheon, Brighid is associated with the “fire in the head” of inspiration (also see my B post on Her). However, when I’m writing I’ve seriously never felt Their presence, even if the work I produce is about Them.
So while I see writing as an integral part of myself (hence the Identity title), I still don’t know what makes me, or rather, what drives me to write. What I know, however, is how to write and how to be inspired.
So how can we make inspiration flow (cf. Myers 2008: 477)?
- First of all, learn as much as you can about your craft – only when you have a good working knowledge of what has been done, of different styles etc. can you combine them in new, interesting ways.
- Be risky – sometimes, you have to take a certain risk: you won’t know if combining a horror story and crime elements will work unless you try.
- Learn to see things in new, creative ways – e.g. what could you use a brick for? To build houses, sure, but couldn’t you also use it as a paper weight, as a weapon, as a doorstopper, as a device to keep your table from wobbling? It’s these instances that will give you new insights and inspire you to come up with novel stories.
- Look for others who are creative and who will support you – your creativity can thrive best if there are others who are either creative themselves, so you can inspire each other, or when they are accepting of your craft. Imagine writing a story when your SO keeps telling you that it’s a waste of time and/or silly – you’d have to be very dedicated to keep at it! Also, create an “imaginary friend,” your Constant Reader (or Constant Gallery Visitor, or Constant Concertgoer). S/he is your prototypical target audience. So you can ask yourself while working on your creative product: would Constant Reader enjoy this? Does s/he expect something entirely different now and will s/he be disappointed if s/he reads, sees or hears my new take on things? Basically, Constant Reader allows you to keep your intended audience in mind and not to stray too far from your intended path (King 2000).
- When you’re planning to
work creatively, no matter if you’re planning on being a professional artist or
if you’re just working for yourself, you have to want to do it, simply
because you enjoy the process of doing it. It has been shown that when two
groups of people work on a creative project, the ones who are told that their work
will be judged are less creative. So just write for the sake of writing, sing
because you love it, and you’ll come up with more new, interesting ideas than
if you plan to be the new J.K. Rowling, Montserrat Caballé or Dalí.
And finally, when you do all the things above, you have to practice continuously. Sure, writing only when you feel that divine spark of inspiration will produce some very nice stories or poems. I, for once, see myself as a Romantic poet who can only write when inspired or called to do so. However, you get better with practice, esp. when it comes to writing stories, dialogue that sounds natural, creating suspense and atmosphere – a writer I’ve met suggested to write a few pages each morning and to keep writing even if everything you turn out feels like s**t, cause this will stop your Inner Editor from complaining and making you feel insecure.
To finish off this post, here’s a poem about Odin I wrote recently. It is inspired both by the German Symbolist poet Stefan George (if you can read German, his poem is here) as well as German Expressionist writers, esp. August Stramm.
the trees were shedding
their golden gowns
when I found you
amid the cool forest
unannounced I came
but receive me,
in your court
in the twilight woodland
others handed you roses -
but my flowers are wild
and free, like the sun
that is dying
this final blossom
take, bind it,
braid it in my hair -
with your nine sacred herbs
to make my wedding holy
skies darken, blacken in the wind
autumn air dances
in your war-encrusted curls -
please, leof min,
stay with me
for it is towards evening
beneath the dusk I hear
the cruel blue winter wind -
and the Wild Hunt
King, Stephen. 2000. On Writing. A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Myers, David G. 2008. Psychologie. Heidelberg: Springer [German edition].
http://www.alb-neckar-schwarzwald.de/s_george_poems.html (Stefan George’s “komm in den totgesagten park“ in both German and English translation)
http://www.firstworldwar.com/poetsandprose/stramm.htm (English translations of two of August Stramm’s poems)