Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Why and Where of Writing

When people find out I'm a writer, there are two major questions that always seem to crop up.  They are "Why do you write?" and "Where do you find inspiration?"  While these queries may seem cliche, no artist or writer or musician is going to honestly answer in the same way.  So this seems like a good place to mark the true start of H&K Redux.

I write because I have stories to tell, and telling them brings me joy.  I am not content to only consume the thoughts and dreams of others; the urge to create is too strong.  Even my music, such as the yet unfinished "Ballad of Roger and Rose," tells stories.  There are worlds within worlds inside and outside the universe proper.  Why not explore them?

Like all storytellers, I am an inveterate liar.  My recollection gains embroidery through the years, not because of malice (at least, no longer), but from the sheer joy of weaving a more interesting narrative.  Our memories are the messiest of oral traditions and are wonderful because of, not in spite of, this casual inaccuracy.  In truth, none of us are ever fully the hero, nor others villains.  Yet who is not the hero of their own story?  So I take this human impulse, the telling of tales, and formalize it.

Inspiration for these stories comes from everything.  This not a cop out or deflection; it is the unvarnished truth.  There are characters leaping out of the newspaper, hiding behind shady oaks, and screaming in your basement.  Stories rest in every handshake, car ride, and commercial for weight loss pills.  The writer's art is to distill this chaos into something real, something true, even if that something involves invisible weather gnomes wearing bowler hats.

So, faced by this bounty of inspiration, the question I wish more people would ask is "How do you manage to write day after day?"  Thomas Edison had it right when he said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."  The evidence of this small statement's truth is everywhere.  How many talented baseball players fail because they are not willing to sacrifice everything in the pursuit of winning?  How many world-class artists burn out after toiling endlessly in poverty and obscurity?

Writing is no different.  Failure is the neighbor who tap-dances on your ceiling at night and mangles his ukulele at your moment of greatest calm.  Words, sentences, and paragraphs stubbornly refuse to work; they howl and flail like rabid donkeys as you desperately traverse a rope bridge over a bottomless ravine.  And as rejections make not-so small piles on your desk, the tap-dancing grows infinitesimally louder.

The answer is simple albeit a bit recursive.  Writing is the cure to its own suffering.  There are moments in every day when despair seeps into my fingers and my eyes lose focus.  A bit of dialogue limps to a comma and tries to commit hara-kiri.  But before I hurl my keyboard away in disgust, a small voice calls my name.

The goblin prince strides onto the screen and points up.  To the sky, he commands.  We must see the stars!  My eyes sharpen and fingers dance.  Pull yourself together, I tell the dialogue.  There is no time to waste!  There are worlds to discover and never enough moments to explore them!

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