Thursday, January 14, 2016


Inspiration strikes

The passing of David Bowie has made me ponder over the past few days on the nature of creativity. I liked David Bowie, even though I was not a fanatic and actually am unfamiliar with some of his later work. However, the thing that I particularly admired about the man was the way he endlessly recreated himself and his craft, and every iteration of David Bowie was eye-catching and beautifully done. He was brave, and no matter what your art is, you have to be brave, to put yourself out there.

I don't know where creativity comes from. Is there a mystical source? I’m sure it’s something infinitely more prosaic than Muses or an Oversoul, but I like that idea better than the thought that it’s all just a mental exercise. Why are some people born to their art and others struggle or are even incapable? No matter how much you love music, it's hard to become a singer or composer if you have a tin ear, or to create a moving painting or sculpture if you have no eye for form and color. You have to have an "ear" and and "eye" to be able to write effectively, as well.

I usually start the day by reading the paper front to back, and then working all the puzzles. This is not quite the time consuming activity it used to be a few years ago, when the daily paper actually had news in it. But at least the puzzles get my brain revved up for the day. One of my favorite puzzles is the Jumble, which consists of an anagram of a quotation from a well-known person. A while back, I deciphered a quotation from Truman Capote which, as a writer, I found quite insightful. It is as follows:

Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music.

Perspective is a sense of depth. It is a way to show things in their true relationship to one another, a way to make them seem real.

I never know what the entire story will be before I begin.* I learned early on that when you start to write a novel or story, or even a poem, you may think you have it all figured out before you set pen to paper. But you don't. Before I start a mystery, I always think I know why the killer did it, but to date, by the time I reach the end I discover I was wrong. The motive seems get modified every time. Not long ago, I told someone she should "trust the process" with her writing. Even if you don't know where the story is going to go, just start writing and trust that all will become clear as you go along. Have faith that the answer will provide itself when the moment comes.

Once the novel is done, it’s interesting to me to see how it all turned out, to remember what I originally had in mind and see how the tale changed as I moved through it. The only thing I can always count on when I write a book is that whether I deserve it or not, the Muses always come to my rescue and I end up with a finished novel that hangs together in an interesting and logical way. I don't know how.
*in writing or in life


Arletta Dawdy said...

Needing to be brave to put ourselves "out there" is surely where we are at as writers. So much of what and how we write reveals ourselves to others. It is a risk taking venture with uncertain outcomes and bravery marks our way. Thanks, Donis.

Marty Knox said...

I was so excited to finally meet you in person at a recent lecture. I have bought all your books. My friends think it's funny that I geek out over authors I have read but I was so impressed that there you were taking notes. "You are never too old to learn," my motto. I am so thankful for all the encouragement you give to newbies. Every author has to write their first book. Thanks for the tips.