Listening to the Universe / Catching Ideas

A good friend of mine, a writer, is big on listening to the universe. When she has a problem she just throws it out there, figuratively speaking, and keeps her senses hyper tuned in to the universal radio frequency to see what it throws back. I love this, as a concept, but in practice find it harder to adopt.

At the moment I’m reading this wonderful book by the equally wonderful Liz Gilbert (she of Eat, Pray, Love fame, also the author of The Signature of All Things which I adored). I won’t regurgitate its contents (nobody likes regurgitated contents), but what I will share is the gorgeous notion that ideas are all around us, like spirits, tapping potential collaborators on the shoulder and waiting for a response. If they get one, great, tapper and tappee sign a virtual contract, and off they trot into the sunset. If not, the idea simply moves onto the next person. Isn’t that FANTASTIC?

So anyway, both my friend and Liz Gilbert have got me thinking about listening to the universe. I have always had a desire to be creative; an inner fire, if you will. But I haven’t nurtured this desire as much as it deserved, instead allowing external stimuli to distract me from it with alarming regularity. As a result, the fire has often dwindled into embers, which I have managed to stoke sufficiently to keep them alight, but only just. And so, with the exception of a handful of sparks that have broken free from the fire, my creativity has lain mostly dormant for three decades. Like a bear in hibernation, it has poked its head out once every so often to sniff the air, before deciding that nope, it’s better to remain inside its cave, safe from criticism, safe from harm.

Now, as I hurtle through my fourth decade on this planet (shudder), it’s high time for the bear to wake up. It’s clear that for whatever reason the fire inside is stubbornly refusing to die out, so the choice is either live the rest of my life with a sense of failed achievement hanging around my neck like a noose, or coax the bear out of its hole once and for all. I think I’ll do the latter, and also grab a butterfly net. Because who knows how many ideas might tap me on the shoulder while I’m at it?

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Inspiration underload

There are days when words flow like wine, ideas are like buses and the air is pregnant with inspiration. In contrast, there are days when the very process of sentence construction feels like the literary equivalent of wading through quicksand, and brain activity is so non-existent a doctor might well switch off the monitor were it not for the fact of the walking and talking aspects of the person still being intact. On those latter days of which I speak, the air is no so much pregnant with inspiration as thick with the cloying unease of guilt, one of the less conducive emotions to successful writing endeavours.

Today, you may already have guessed, is one of those days, in part because I’ve once again lacked the discipline to work to office hours – having spent the morning running and procrastinating before a friend popped over for lunch and we both spent a considerable portion of the afternoon nattering and sunbathing. Though, in my defence, she is a very old friend whom I have not seen in a very long time – and in part because I’ve just not been feeling the inspiration in the way I did last week. You could argue that I’ve hardly given myself the chance to find inspiration in the first place, having spent less than two hours actually sitting at my desk today, and your argument would indeed be valid. But I would nonetheless pig-headedly argue that sometimes days like this are required in order to find inspiration again. And also that spending time with friends and in the sunshine is beneficial to one’s health, if not one’s bank account or future as a celebrated author.

I’m going to blame the heat, though as I type these words I am mentally flagellating myself for making so many excuses for something that, as my inner critic is telling me at this very moment, is really very simple: If you want to be a writer, the voice says, pull up a chair, switch on your laptop, switch off your phone, switch off the internet, sit down, and write. Write until your fingers go numb, until it has got dark outside and you hadn’t even noticed. Write until every last seed of an idea has tumbled from your brain onto the page and taken root. Write as if your life depended on it. Just write. Because isn’t that what you profess to want to do? I have to admit the voice has got a point. Perhaps I’ll be more productive once the heat wave has abated…

Thinking about it, maybe best that I don't live in a hot country after all...

A new chapter

Something’s happening; thus far just the gentle flickering of thoughts and ideas, licking my prefrontal cortex like kindling flames that are yet to take and start a proper fire.

But I can feel it, even though it’s been so long since I last did I’d never mistake the signs: My creativity’s returning. Like a little mouse that scurried into a hole beneath the floorboard some time ago, who’s remained hidden but only just out of reach, and who is now ready to emerge, blinking in the light, and play.

A novel is brewing, the myriad components swirling around in my mind like a witch’s brew in a mystical cauldron. I can’t control them – not yet – I have to wait while they take shape, every now and then pausing to make a note when the cauldron spits something out, decreeing it ready to be consumed. But they are unmistakably, perceptibly, joyously there.

I don’t know what will come of this long-awaited phase of imagination, nor do I know what can be attributed to its generation. Has my daily blogging finally paid off and kick-started the process of creation as I hoped it would? Or was it New York with its wonderful sights and sounds, and the even more wonderful friend I visited there who is herself writing a novel (I think this option most likely, as seeing her eyes light up talking about her plot and characters reminded me of the joy of creation, which I think somehow along the way I had forgotten)?

Whatever the reason, I’m delighted this is happening, whatever ‘this’ is. I’m happy to be patient, to jot down notes – the odd key word or character trait as it comes to me – and I’m confident soon all will be revealed. The planets are aligning, the jigsaw pieces falling into place.

Soon I shall begin.