Summoning the Muse

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“But I can only write what the muse allows me to write.
I cannot choose, I can only do what I am given, and I feel pleased
when I feel close to concrete poetry – still.”

Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925-2006)
Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener

When I was in high school I was what you might call a prolific writer. Words flowed like water. The muse would often visit while I was lounging in a hot bathtub (I’ll tell you about one such visit later), or just sitting still. Complete poems, song verses, or story plots would come into my mind as if injected there during some kind of creativity-transplant operation. The quote above pretty much sums up my “process” during that time. If I didn’t feel inspired to write, I didn’t. Except for school assignments, I never took pen to paper just to see what would happen. I usually ran in search of a pen to capture some wisp of smoky perfection before it spiraled upward out of my reach, forgotten.

Many years ago I went to see author Anne Lamott speak in San Francisco. I had read several of her books and was a fan of her work. I was eager to hear more about what this quirky, honest, often emotionally raw writer, had to say about how she approached her craft. When asked about her writing process she claimed to always carry around a pen and paper with her wherever she went. Lamott joked that if an idea came to her and she wasn’t able to capture it, well, then God would just give it away to somebody else. ¬†And to prevent that from happening she had to be prepared. At. All. Times.

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