Over two weeks had passed since my last post, and I didn’t have the time or the inclination to post another. I was feeling guilty because, although I’d never committed to a blog-a-week contract, that had been my unofficial game plan. Two particular barriers stood in the way of my productivity: 1) I had nothing to say, and 2) I was getting ready to go out of town and had a million things to do.
Call it fate, serendipity, a fortunate coincidence. On my trip I acquired a great little book entitled Letters to Alice on first reading Jane Austen. (See post below.) Fay Weldon wrote it in 1983, but her timeless advice helped me gain perspective thirty years later. Not far into the book, Weldon addresses two categories of tormentors that plague writers: those who stand behind writers and those who stand in front.
Foremost among those who stand behind is the Muse. The Muse needs no introduction to anyone who has ever dared to dabble in the creative arts. She is as demanding as she is elusive. She dogs writers, prodding them to go forward. “Go, go, go!” she shouts, as relentless as an NFL coach in her insistence they perform. When at last they give in to her goading, she rewards them by bestowing and withdrawing inspiration with sadistic pleasure.
|Which necessity impedes your |
On rare occasions the Muse behaves herself. She gives writers a really great plot, an intriguing character, a cutting-edge insight, only to have them attacked by tormentors from the front. Among those tormentors is the one I’ll call Necessity. Necessity steps in front of writers, raises her hand traffic-cop style, and shouts, “Stop!” She insists writers cease or at least interrupt their craft in order to meet the demands of daily living. To impede their progress, she throws in their paths such tasks as doing laundry, transporting kids, paying bills. In her own way, Necessity is as devious as the Muse, imposing stiff fines of guilt on those who fail in these endeavors.
So what solution does Weldon offer for overcoming these tormentors? None, I’m afraid. But what she does give, as I stated above, is perspective. The perspective to realize there will never be the perfect situation for sitting down to write. There will always be struggles for great ideas, for the best ways to state them, for enough uninterrupted time to write them down, for strategies to deal with naysayers. And the good news is that—in an almost paradoxical way—it is through struggles and through everyday living, the Muse visits. Or as Weldon so eloquently puts it: “...it is the battle the writer wages with the real world which provides the energy for invention.”