Friday, February 21, 2014

"Paint if Empty"

The Muses are fickle at the best of times, and at the worst of times removed, indifferent, mocking even. It is one of the great ironies of the artistic life that the harder the creative moment is pursued the more likely it is to slip away from us, like the forgotten word, hovering just out of reach, at the edges of memory.

It is a perennial question for the artist: how to wheedle, flatter, or otherwise coax the Muses into cooperation.  It’s one of the reasons we’re so interested in the idea of the writer’s process. We keep thinking there is some sort of magic bullet, some way of arranging our desks, calendars, or lives that will ensure a steady flow of creative waters.  Hemingway wrote standing up. Virginia Woolf cleaned the house first. Routine is part of it, a fierce adherence to one’s work and schedule; what Don DeLillo in a Paris Review called (speaking of his own muse, Jorge Luis Borges) “a guide out of lethargy and drift.”

Inspiration, after all, is only the seed. Discipline is fertile ground.

Henry Miller wrote every morning and planned his afternoons thus: paint if empty. That idea, that we empty ourselves as we create, is echoed again and again by writers, artists, and musicians, and replenishing the well-water is an essential part of creative process. 

The long walk, the short nap, the good read. Beethoven, Eddie Vedder, Joni Mitchell, The Boss. Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi. Doors all, into the otherworld of magic, art, and divination, as DeLillo describes the creative impulse.  Locally, we have the Tower HillBotanical Garden, the Worcester Art Museum, the Lancaster Conservation Lands, The Hanover Theatre, the Thayer Memorial Library, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and scores of perfomances, galleries, concerts, classes, and workshops.  

In other words, the Muses help those that help themselves.

Hollis Shore

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