What makes you write?

I was supposed to write a blog post last week.  Unfortunately I got sick and most of the week was spent on the couch.  Fortunately, I did get a chance to watch Independence Day: Resurgence and I started a blog post tangent on sequels and storytelling things I learned watching and reading new things.  Unfortunately, that blog post has turned into a half-finished quagmire and so I’m shelving it for a few days while I knock out something more relevant to the here and now.

Namely, I’ve been thinking, as I try to get back to writing, about the things in our lives that encourage us to get into that headspace.  I mean, it’s axiomatic that you have to write to write, and waiting for inspiration is a fool’s errand.  But what is inspiration?  What puts you in the reflective space where you are mentally open to creativity?

For me, I’ve noticed the biggest things that put me there are music, nature, and exercise.  And by nature I mean really getting out there:  hiking, climbing, seeing sights and exerting yourself.  Exercise works hand-in-hand, because it helps you clear your mind and go into a more reflective headspace.  And then music.  When I listen to music, I usually am only paying attention for the first third of the song, tops.  Especially if it is a favorite song.  Music allows me to tune out, to let my mind wander to other places and to find threads of thought and connect them in interesting ways.  Creative Writing is the expression of these threads, taking things that pop into your head in a moment and immortalizing them, especially when it’s worked into a longer work of fiction.

Invariably I find when I read something that I wrote in the past I am transported back to the time and place when I wrote it.  Even if it is buried within the pages of a novel (and if I’m writing something long, most things of emotional note speak to something I’m going through, or went through).

To close things out, I want to give an example.  This is a poem I’m going to write out now, which I (sort of) composed in my head during a hike today after walking into a spider web.  It’s nothing special, but just an idea sprung from an observation.  Let’s give it a shot.


You know it when you feel it.  That

sticky sensation, immediately annoying,

invisible but somehow everywhere,

clinging to you.  You cannot be rid of it.  

Cannot get it off of you.


Then a moment’s panic,

the thought of it, eight-legged

and arachnoid, skittering

over the nape of your neck,

or in your hair.


And you shake

and swipe and

try to clear away

those threads but

they’re everywhere and nowhere.


And there you stand, alone,

in the shadow of a

dimming sun,

the twilight growing,

the birds and insects beginning their songs,


utterly foolish and exhausted,

and you see the small shape of a spider

twisting on a hairline thread,

spinning down from your elbow

and lowering itself to the ground.


I put that together a moment ago and I will tell you that when I did, I originally thought it was going to be entirely about the spider spinning down and lowering itself to the ground.  I thought, when I saw that, how interesting it was that spiders must have to deal with this sort of thing all the time.  And it occured to me then that they must have always have a contingency plan, which led me to think how this must be true about so many things that we, from our high and mighty vantage point, never deem worthy of considering.

If you didn’t take that away from the poem that’s OK, I don’t either.  It’s not there.  I guess the lesson, if there is one, is to be flexible.  Don’t approach a project with too many preconceived notions, and always be willing to audible if things aren’t going your way.  That’s what I did here–I wrote almost the whole thing, then decided that I had no idea where to take it, and while my observation was interesting the poem I had written didn’t really do anything with it.  So I could throw what I had away and start over, or do something else.

I ended up sticking with it.  I think the results are a mixed bag.  Definitely not anything profound, at least not obviously to me (though I hope I’m wrong!).  I think the title could use some work–sometimes I like really oblique titles that only connect to the poem in ways that I understand (I was thinking of calling this one “Chaos Theory”) but I can see that being confusing and maybe stressful for readers, and who needs more stress?  What I did do is play with line length and made these very short, semi-chaotic lines.  I like that.  You might say it mirrors the fear and chaotic nature of the scene I’m describing.  I would probably say to you the same thing I told my high school English teacher when I was describing why I liked a certain phrase and didn’t yet know how to describe things in terms of connotations and alliteration: “It sounds good.”

In any case I hope you liked it.  And I hope you’ll listen to music and go out into nature, and keep writing.

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