28 Jun 2015

Inspiration's Den of Iniquity

In December 2012, I came across an article in Brain Pickings about The Daily Routines of Great Writers, and their creative space and process. This got me thinking about my own daily routine (or lack thereof) as a (yet-to-be-published) writer. I remember commenting on BP's Facebook page on the subject, sharing what a 'typical' day was for me as a writer:
"My personal routine as a writer is simply not to have any... I write in a state of distraction and urgency, not to say chaos, in noisy places, on random bits of tatty paper, guided by the guises, quirks and fancies of inspiration, driven by both emotion and rationale. You will never find me locked away in solitary confinement, sat at a desk in a neat and tidy room, writing calligraphic-style on the beautiful pages of a beautiful notebook, within a set timeframe like this is the day job. I may be a writer but never aspire to look like one either."

Brett Easton Ellis' The Typewriter Campaign with Persol

All in all, I couldn't help but be a little taken aback by the lack of creative process in some of those daily lives I was reading about. There was a rigor, a rigidity, a structure, an orderliness, and a predictability resulting from repetitive acts, that fashioned what a typical writer's day was supposed to look like. If anything, it verged on the superstitious, the mechanical and the obsessive, which I found at odds with creativity and untransferrable to a less disciplined character like myself. There is method in my madness though, yet I find that I would be counter-productive if I were subjected to some rigid routine pattern.

For me, imagination, curiosity, observation and inspiration - the intermingled fuels that feed creativity - work hand in hand with the act of creating, a.k.a. the art form. It is a unison work in progress, a symbiosis that accompanies the artist beyond the projects they are working on. It is a way of life. Creativity is very messy and undisciplined - and that is the beauty of it! Inspiration hits you anywhere and at any time, whether the moment is appropriate or not, whether you are in the mood to transcribe it there and then - or not. It is up to you to seize the day as it turns out to become, capture the spark in its blessing, as it twinkles at you for you to translate into creative genius - or just let it peter out, often never to be able to rekindle it again, at least in its very same form.

Christian Dell Table Lamp, circa 1929-1930 (pict source)

Back to the Brain Pickings article, Ray Bradbury was on that same wavelength:
"My passions drive me to the typewriter every day of my life, and they have driven me there since I was twelve. So I never have to worry about schedules. Some new thing is always exploding in me, and it schedules me, I don’t schedule it. It says: Get to the typewriter right now and finish this." - Ray Bradbury
The creative urge is what defines artistic life as a holistic experience. It shatters to smithereens any preconceived idea around the 'typical' working day. It happens and you deal with it - or you don't. Multi-talented chanteuse Lady Gaga goes even further, lending some mystical connotation to the experience:
“The most important thing about creativity is that you honor your creativity and you don’t ever ignore it or go against what that creative image is telling you… Last night I was lying in bed and I had an idea for an outfit and I just made myself get up and sketch it real fast then went back to sleep. I think it’s when you say “I’m too tired I have to go to bed” is when creativity stops coming. If God calls you, pick up the damn phone.” - Lady Gaga
Cyphus germari by Michaël Cailloux, via Les Pépins

I have answered that phone in those most incongruous of moments. In the middle of the night, waking up from a dream, or while on the move, in my travels, sometimes hardly prepared for it, stopping my car by the roadside, scribbling away those words on random bits of paper I find in my handbag (if that notebook I have left home), or even texting myself the words. If no paper and no phone, then trying to remember those words and sentences (or just scale down to some trigger words that help me remember the text or poem I have just created 'out of the blue'), and recite them parrot fashion on my way home or to a place where I can scribble them down.

In this spontaneous interchange between inspiration and the receiver (the artist), I fail to find any room for the showroom office, the tidy desk, the neatly-aligned books, comforting grigris and perfectly-sharpened pens, under the solemn time-ticking auspices of the alarm clock structuring your working day. A writer's working day is hardly a 9am-5pm office job. My better half, Roby, who is a published American author, says that his office is only tidy when he is not working. Let us not forget though that no matter how messy and untidy creativity may appear at source, it comes out disciplined and structured once channelled onto paper. Therefore the apparent untidiness of the artist should not define them or their craft.


Bret Easton Ellis For Persol Typewriter Edition from Persol.


Creativity is an on-going process. It doesn't start, it doesn't end. Now you are welcome to that obligatory 20-minute morning walk ritual before you start your artistic endeavours, supported in your task by your favourite songtrack and your loyal artefacts as they tune you in - should you be of the belief that these externals will help trigger your genius onto paper afterwards. For my part, I will not have my creative life regimented to that effect. I do not have a typical day. The only routine I have is imposed upon me because I currently live at my parents' house, and the set meals and other family obligations structure some sort of routine into my day, but this will change soon, when I move out.

I will not push the words either. French author and 2012 Goncourt Prize winner Jérôme Ferrari summed up his technique nicely in a recent interview to a local French newspaper: "I do not search for words, I allow them to come to me." Nothing of a high calibre will come out when creativity is forced out of you, like you are on a tight deadline, with a multitude of other parameters attached. Rules and conditions restrict creativity. They do not expand it.

'Art is a journey into the most unknown thing of all - oneself. 
Nobody knows his own frontiers… 
I don’t think I’d ever want to take a road 
if I knew where it led.' - Louis Kahan 


P.S: More from the Persol-Bret Easton Ellis Typewriter Campaign in our previous post.

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