Monthly Archives: January 2015

A-Mused?

For nearly all the years of my writing life, I’ve struggled with taking responsibility for what I create. Yes, I am the one who puts it onto the page, who polishes it, and who submits it; but there is also a very powerful sense of those ideas coming from somewhere else. Nearly always, when the writing’s going well and I’m in the zone, it feels more like I’m dictating than writing—or that I’m “being written.” Because my ideas and inspirations seemed to come from a different source than myself, I had trouble taking responsibility and credit for my words. However, a little less than a year ago, I realized that the simple act of “dictating” was, itself, a gift and a talent. That it still took skill to take these ideas and tidbits of inspiration, from wherever they came, and make them presentable, submittable to the world.

Then, earlier this week, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, where Gilbert presents her belief that inspiration come from outside the artist, and, further, that it’s not totally the artist’s fault if their work turns out bad, because, “your [muse] was kind of lame.”

While I do admit it certainly seems like a goodly number of the ideas I put down on paper, especially the good ones, come from somewhere outside of me, I’m still not totally convinced that muses do exist. I’m not quite ready to surrender the notion that we artists are fully responsible for our works. I certainly am not ready to hold some other entity accountable for the caliber of my work. Sometimes, the inspiration arrives so purely and thoroughly, there’s nothing more to be done than make it manifest. Some other times, though, it takes a lotta chipping and polishing to reveal the gem received. Likewise, it sometimes takes both years and pressure to transform the rocky lump into a diamond. In other words, you must be present (and persistent) to win. As Twyla Tharp mentions early in her, The Creative Habit: Learn it and use it for life, “but whether or not God has kissed your brow, you still have to work.”

Gilbert does flesh-out her idea of outside inspiration moreso that I’m presenting, here. And she does pay heed to the artist having to show up to do the work, never minding whether inspiration has arrived, or whether it ever does. And, too, she also only had nineteen minutes to make her presentation, which likely wasn’t enough time for her to fully flesh-out her thoughts and beliefs on the subject. While I kinda disagree with some of what I heard her saying, I’d be eager to have the chance to discuss this further with her, To hear more of what she has to say on the subject.

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Filed under Inspiration, re: Writing, Sorting It Out

Stop Waiting

I spent at least half an hour, this afternoon, not knowing what to write for today’s blogpost. Time and again, what came to mind seemed self-indulgent (yes, even for a blogpost) or lacked substance. I coulda skipped the blogpost, waiting until next week or whenever inspiration finally struck. But I’m a writer, and am working on becoming a professional one. Waiting to inspired before I write is an indulgence I can’t afford. And I know from experience how often inspiration follows initiation. Professional writers simply clock-in and get to work, period. No ifs, no ands, no buts, no whining.

This kinda segues into whether one is supposed to write everyday. Well, the incredibly overwhelming majority of writers whom I know about do some sort of writing, each day. It’s like any other desired habit, it’s persistently attended to and done—even when it’s difficult, even when you don’t wanna. I know my own writing benefits when I make it a daily thing. To be sure, there are exceptions. Jane Hirshfield and (possibly) Kent Haruf come to mind. And when I’m consistently producing work anywhere near the caliber of Haruf’s and Hirshfield’s, I might reconsider.

But until then, it’s to be an every day thing.

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Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, re: Writing, Staying With the Writing

Outta Dodge

About a week ago, I saw how work was getting to me, so I planned an overnight visit to Telluride. Back when I booked my room, the weather was fine, but this is Colorado. On the two days leading up to yesterday’s arrival, Telluride got dumped on, and was even under a winter storm warning, halfway through the evening before I got here. However, because this is Colorado, the skies cleared, and I arrived in glaring sunlight. Kinda makes me think this trip was meant to be.

Just another typical Telluride street.

Just another typical Telluride street.

Once I’d solidified my plans to come, I contacted Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, to see if she’d be able to help me with my poeming. She’s currently busy, even for her, yet she made time. So much resulted from our session, so much she had to say and suggest, I wish I’d been able to somehow record the session. So much is likely lost because I didn’t write it immediately down after we parted. (But then, that’s how life goes: We’re never able to get it all; we just do our best, continually carrying on with what we have.)

I’ve never spent just a single night In Telluride. It seems odd to be turning around today, already, to head back home. And I arrived here with no plan, no agenda (other than my meeting w/Rosemerry). I simply needed and wanted some time away, to get outta Dodge, to regain another perspective. To finally catch the breath that kept escaping me.

And by all systems of my measure, it does seem to have been such a getting my feet back under me, of having gotten back into better synch with the world. But, this has been me visiting Telluride; so, of course, there’s been more. No small part of what’s taken place has touched on personal issues which tie into the recalibration mentioned previously. But it seems this trip is being about strengthening my writing. About showing me how it’s fecundly threaded throughout my life. Showing me other ways to access it, other ways to bring it to bear. Then, all this also ties back to, “[getting] into better synch with the world.”

So, I reckon this overnight in Telluride has been about transitioning from sinking to synching.

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Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, re: Writing

My Farewell To My Dad

Last Friday was the one-month anniversary of my dad’s passing. I’d recently cut my hair from upper-back to nearly-shaved, saving it in a ceramic bowl someone had given me; and I’d decided to commemorate my dad’s passing by distributing the hair into the Arkansas River, which is just a couple of blocks from my apartment. I posted this event on FaceBook, inviting sixty-some folks.

Three generations of male Brummels: my grandfather, Basil Edward Brummel; my dad, William Davis "Bill" Brummel; and my older-by-six-years brother, Daivd.

Three generations of male Brummels: my grandfather, Basil Edward Brummel; my dad, William Davis “Bill” Brummel; and my older-by-six-years brother, Daivd.

The days leading up to last Friday were overcast, snowy, and cold. Friday, though, was sunny and warm[er]. Still, when the 6PM start-time came around, it was 18 degrees. When I arrived at river, two folks were already there, and then two more joined us, very shortly after. I had my laptop begin playing the John Denver song my dad loved, picked up the bowl with my hair, and made my way carefully down the bank, into the river, and cautiously made my way to the spot where I’d let the river carry my hair (eventually, theoretically) to my folks’ home-city of San Antonio.

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The writer in me realizes there’s a story, here. Maybe, for High Country News, where I’ve already published an essay about Dad and this same river. Maybe somewhere else. At the absolute very least, I need to write this story—having it published is a whole other affair, albeit, one I’ll be pursuing.

Sometimes, our actions have to step in for when there are no words.

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Filed under No [One] Is An Island, Parental Passing, Sorting It Out

New Year

It’s the first day of a new year, and I’m ready for a fresh start in a lot of places. I’m still slowly, persistently plugging away toward having a writing-centered life; and there’s still stuff to be dealt with due to Dad’s passing, last month.

As years nearly always are, last year was a mix of good, bad, and indifferent. And as also nearly always happens, there are hopes and expectations for this year being an improvement over the last. Maybe for me, having a birthday just two weeks and change before the end of the year, it’s sort of a double dose of “new year,” come January 1st. And, too, I have a propensity toward being contemplative, anyway.

But, still, like all the previous years, and all the years which will follow, this new year will be whatever it’s going to be. We don’t have much control over what will happen, although we do have some say in how we interpret and handle what the year brings us, how we respond to it. May we all roll with the punches, be aware of and grateful for the gifts, keep our humor and our faith in things working out moreso in favor of the good. May our mouths be thrown open due to wonder far more often than to wailing. May we find ourselves being treated graciously by this new year.

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Filed under Sorting It Out