Lilacs out of the Dead Land by Ira Bloom
Staring at my screen with a folder full of notes on the subject of writing, and I’ve got nothing. For the tenth time since I set this writing task for myself, I sit and observe the screen, waiting patiently for inspiration to strike.
It’s not striking.
This is ironic, because my working title for this article was “On Nurturing Creativity.” Nurturing creativity? Who am I kidding? I’m a fraud. Creativity is flat-lining here. Wheel out the crash cart and charge up the defibrillators, the patient has gone into cardiac arrest. I’m gonna call it: time of death, 10:15 PM.
I haven’t made a lot of progress on the books I’m working on either, recently, but I obstinately refuse to use the term “writer’s block.” That gives away too much power to unseen forces: If there’s a cosmological electric fence blocking my access to the wellspring of creativity, that’s something beyond my control, so I have a perfect excuse to give up and play computer solitaire. That’s in no way conducive to progress. No, let’s call this what it is: A lack of focus or transcendence, a failure on my part to access this critical thing in my brain where all the ideas come from. At this point, this narrative could easily turn to a diatribe of self-loathing if it weren’t for my natural proclivity for the avoidance of accountability, so I will switch up here and blame my failure on the invasive properties of reality. I’m not taking the rap for this, it’s reality’s fault.
Creativity is an amorphous, abstract subject to tackle. I agree with William Plomer’s definition: “Creativity is the power to connect the seemingly unconnected.” It’s a thing that takes place in the brain when certain conditions are met, the spontaneous juxtaposition or melding of things in an entirely new, unique and original way. Creativity cannot be forced. Storylines, original imagery or original humor are all in there somewhere. We all have the capacity to create original material, but we all don’t have the capacity to call it up on demand. Yet there are people who are highly productive and creative. We all know who they are: we read their books compulsively. They have long careers and write dozens of best sellers. What is taking place in their noggins, among all the synapses? Why are some people able to tap into a wellspring of original thought, inventiveness and imagination? What have they got that we haven’t got?
See if this describes your writing process: You inform your handsome, loving husband (who quit his job as chief of neuro-surgery at the Mayo clinic to raise your two beautiful, well behaved children so you can pursue your writing dreams) that you aren’t to be disturbed unless a child needs a boo-boo kissed (because mama’s kisses have eleven times the efficacy of daddy’s, which are in many instances toxic). You settle into your custom-made leather chair in front of the computer and set about the task of getting your head to the place where the ideas come from, for which you have a unique ritual involving meditation, prayer, sixteen minutes of Twitter and a cup of tea made from baby leaves picked by barefoot pre-pubescent boys by moonlight in a remote village in Sri Lanka. But your ritual is disturbed by the sound of airplanes overhead. So you ring the little bell on the desk and your husband appears immediately at your side.
“Can I get you something, darling?” he asks.
“Those airplanes,” you reply. “Are they really necessary?”
“Are they bothering you, my dear? Shall I call air traffic control and have them routed to another airport?”
“If it isn’t too much trouble,” you suggest wistfully.
“’Tis but a trifle, my dear. The fate of the free world depends on your finishing your book.”
Okay, first of all, if that described your writing routine, I hate you. And second of all, that does not describe your writing routine. The above scenario is pure fantasy. Especially the part about the hot husband. Sure, best-selling authors are taken seriously when they sit down to write, and accommodations are made for them by their loved-ones. But most of us (including a majority of published authors) have to work a day job and have innumerable distractions. Because, reality. We can write if we can get to that place, but we can’t get to that place because of reality.
Writing takes focus. A book should be an author’s all-consuming obsession. When we aren’t writing, we should be thinking about our books, about our characters and the scenes they’re in. If we aren’t 100% committed, we’re cheating our readers out of our best stuff, though arguably we probably won’t have readers because those readers are reading the works of authors who are 100% committed. But this commitment takes time. Every successful writer will tell you, FIGHT LIKE A DEMON FOR YOUR WRITING TIME! Bad people (or loved ones, more often) will try to steal our writing time. They will want us to go shopping or take out the garbage or pay the electric bill or otherwise acknowledge their existence. That is all fine, as long as they don’t expect us to do it DURING OUR WRITING TIME. Then we have a problem (I would suggest you pay the electric bill, though, unless you have a manual typewriter).
I have a friend who is an extremely successful musician and composer with a forty year career and dozens upon dozens of albums to his credit. By any standards, he is a creative genius. And the one thing I learned, from observing him, is that he gets agitated when anything cuts into his creative time. The world had better bend around my friend when he’s composing, because he will not bend around the world.
I believe creativity isn’t an intellectual act. Good writing requires a good brain, chock full of source material, but creativity is an act of transcendence. Our brains are magnificent machines for processing data, storing memory and moving our bodies around from place to place, but none of these are creative acts. As Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.” If that’s not Zen, I don’t know what is.
There’s a reason people who dabble in the creative process are infinitely fascinated by the writing routines of authors. Those routines offer a glimpse, perhaps, of the path to the wellspring. I wish I had some advice for people who are not, momentarily, in a productive state of mind, because I’d use it myself. Perhaps the best thing I’ve read on the subject is Neil Gaiman’s words on daydreaming: “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we're doing it.”
That advice should be heartening. Maybe there’s no trick to it at all. Arlo Guthrie likens it to fishing: go to the place where you’ve caught fish before, cast a line, and wait. It’s just a matter of time. Just don’t, Arlo warns, fish downstream from Bob Dylan.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Hearts & Other Body Parts
by Ira Bloom
A novel of love and monsters.
Sisters Esme, Katy, and Ronnie are smart, talented, and gorgeous, and better yet . . . all three are witches. They have high school wired until the arrival of two new students. The first is Norman, who is almost eight feet tall and appears to be constructed of bolts and mismatched body parts. Despite his intimidating looks, Esme finds herself strangely -- almost romantically -- drawn to both his oversized brain and oversized heart.
The second new arrival is Zack, an impossibly handsome late transfer from the UK who has the girls at school instantly mesmerized. Soon even sensible Esme has forgotten Norman, and all three sisters are in a flat-out hex war to win Zack. But while the magic is flying, only Norman seems to notice that students who wander off alone with Zack end up with crushed bones and memory loss. Or worse, missing entirely.
Hearts & Other Body Parts is a wickedly addictive novel about love, monsters, and loyalty. And oh yeah, a Japanese corpse-eating demon cat.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ira Bloom grew up in Annapolis Maryland. He studied English Literature at the University of Maryland, College Park. He also has some background in Eastern religions. After college Bloom moved to Japan, where he taught ESL. He married a beautiful Japanese woman named Yasuko, moved to LA and taught junior high school English, ESL, and Japanese for the Los Angeles Unified School district. After serving his debt to society in LA Unified, Bloom went into the fashion business with his wife, who is a very talented fashion designer. They eventually branched into the vintage kimono business. Bloom claims he probably knows more about Japanese textiles than any straight white man you’re likely to encounter. He has been writing humor for FUNNY TIMES since 2010. I currently live in West Sonoma County with my family and an assortment of furry beasts.
Website | Twitter | Goodreads
Website | Twitter | Goodreads