Anyone can put words together, but how does one write? How does one make something from nothing and create a work that has meaning and lasting value? Creativity is obviously key, but what if one’s mind won’t relax enough to allow it?
Moods are fickle friends. One may try to manually create the right mood to be creative. Alcohol is a popular choice for relaxation; however, it’s a misconception that alcohol can stimulate creativity. The image of the alcoholic writer from olden days who was so prolific and verbose is a fallacy. It simply is hard work to write, at least to write well. Besides, if you need to drink to get into the right state of mind, than you aren’t anywhere near the correct state of mind to be writing anyway.
To me, good writing requires that you do two things: (1) have something to say—you must be making a point of some kind; and (2) express a specific emotion. Without that, it won’t resonate with your audience, and your writing won’t stand the test of time. How do you want to be looked on in five years? Do you want to be Milli Vanilli, or the Beatles? Your emotion must surround you. You need to be able to put it on like a shirt, and walk around in it for awhile. Only then can you write about the subject and impart that feeling to the reader.
Composing written works itself is a skill that can be worked on with practice. To create lasting art, however, inspiration must be true. One cannot force true inspiration. You can’t strap yourself in and just bang out work like you would going to your cubicle in any other job. You can’t make it happen. Writing is made more difficult because you never know when inspiration will hit you. And you can’t always just stop what you’re doing to type up that point on the spot. I suppose you can try, but people will look at you funny as you sit on the floor of the grocery store isle furiously typing away at your netbook, while your child sits in the cart looking down on you inquisitively.
Your own mood must be inline with the feeling you are trying to write about, but that can prove more difficult to accomplish than it seems. You may have an idea early in the day. The feeling of the piece may overtake you—but you may not have any time to write until 6 PM. Now at 6 PM when the muse is gone, you aren’t in that mindset anymore. You’re in a completely different mood, and the moment is gone. You either have to wait for it to come back, try to do something to regain it (if that’s possible), or just let it go. Something I try to do is keep a notebook with me at all times. I jot down notes whenever I can. I find that if I can get enough ideas down, hopefully a rough draft, then even if I edit the piece later in another mindset I can still pull off whatever I was attempting with the piece—at least most of the time.
There is a time for simply slogging away, making it happen. There is also a time for waiting for true inspiration, a real feeling that needs to be expressed—that will feel authentic later on. Anyone can put words together in a particular order on a sheet of paper or computer screen. Good writers know how to find the right balance, and when to walk away if it isn’t working. Of course, experience is always a great source of inspiration.
So, as the saying goes, “Live hard, die young, and leave a good looking manuscript.”