Creativity and Contemplation

Sometimes, when I return to a well loved book, I wonder what gave the author their inspiration. Where did the spark come from that created Jeeves, or Aziraphale and Crawley? What pushed Agatha outside her normal sphere into writing Endless Night? When various and sundries were up late drinking and thinking, what made them say “Your fazzer was a hamsterrr and your muzzzer smelt of elderberrrries.”?

What led to creativity in people we now call geniuses? Because let’s face it, if we met Agatha Christie, she would be embarrassed by our slavering zeal. Neil Gaiman lives without pomp in Minnesota (odd choice. Wisconsin’s nicer, Neil, and I live there….) Einstien didn’t run around buying bay leaves for himself to prove that he was a champion thinker. These people, while recognizing that they have abilities and talents, consider(ed) themselves ‘just folk’. But they are just folk who have contributed such deep oceans of knowledge and art to humanity that this modern generation cannot live without them. (that includes Monty Python. Imagine life without it. Imagine the Gobi Desert. Same thing.)

In this not-so-scientific article, I would like to posit that three things drive creativity. Quiet, Contemplation, and Persistance.

It has been said by someone (no footnotes for me, I’ve graduated) that ideas come on the bus, in the bath, and in bed. Sometimes this is the only time you have. If life is busy (and whose life isn’t busy), you are alloted these small moments of quietness when your mind can drop out of its frantic alarms and rest for a moment. If there’s never any quiet, there is never ever ever a chance for the brain to rest. Even music playing in the background has to be focussed through. Many people say they cannot think without music or the TV in the background. I do not understand this. When there is something in the background, a goodly amount of the brain must be devoted to drowning that out. Turn it off. Sit in the silence. Wait.

You will find that you being to think. To really think, and not just on the superficial fast paced level that today’s society has come to value. Modern America values the person who can make snap decisions and race hither and thither bossing people around and generally looking like the Road Runner after a cuppa. This, however, is not the kind of thinking that produced the great art, liturature and music of the past. There is plenty of documentation as to the lifestyles of Agatha Christie and Brahms. Look it up if you don’t believe me. They took a lot of walks and ate a lot of food. They were quiet people. And that gave them room to think. Think deeply, and without hurry. Really chewing over the problems and solutions they set themselves. They spent hours in contemplation.
~As a companion to this, I think there is a component of conversation as well. Again, not the style of mindless chat we tend to call conversation today. Time consuming discussions that require reasoning. The people we call geniuses of creativity conversed with friends to get to the bottom of the matter. But not all the time, and you know, before you can converse, you have to contemplate. So conversation is crucial to creativity, but is also only constructive when preceeded by contemplation. (Sorry, that devolved into academia. I was trying so hard not to do that…)

Finally, never underestimate the work that creativity takes. We’re human. We don’t get to say “let there be light”. Creativity doesn’t happen all of a flash. That’s a nice thought, widely publicized by cartoons. LIGHT BULB, and the problem is solved. I’m sorry. Creativity takes research and practice. The first solution is probably not going to work. If it does, put it aside and look at it suspiciously for at least a day. It would be better if you left it for a week. Do you think vulcanized rubber was invented in one go? It wasn’t. It was about the millionth experiment, and the apocryphal story is that the inventor’s wife came home in the middle of the experiment and the man guiltily thrust the offending product in the oven to hide it. I don’t know if that’s true, I read it in a kid’s book years ago, but it still highlights a fundamental truth. Inventors have to work hard for their creativity to pay off. Practice creativity. Practice Practice Practice.

So if you were writing a recipe for creativity, you have to see by now that the chief ingredient is Time. There is only the tiniest bit of inspiration as yeast. You have to give it time, and you have to work hard at it. I don’t know, you might be a genius, if you gave your mind space and time to think. I bet you are. Come, show me what you can do.

(But if you are short of time…there is a way to be clever. Perhaps not all the way to inspired, but certainly very, very, clever. It’s called a bottle of Jack and a good friend.)

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I haven’t written any successful poetry in weeks. After I finished Spendthrift, I really didn’t have any spare thought.

Now, I am going back to the daily discipline of trying to write. I’m a bit rusty, but not too bad. The only thing is, that I find myself gravitating to the sonnet. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Sonnets are masterful forms that transcend time and space. But it’s the only form I am actually practiced with, and therefore the only tool I have.

But some thoughts just don’t fit into either the doggerel, the limerick, the clarihew or the sonnet. Somethings just don’t work. You can’t nail in a screw. You can’t screw in a nail. I’ve got to get some more tools.

So I set out on a journey. I am wrestling with the villainelle. Go ahead, laugh. That’s fine. I haven’t successfully written one yet, so the progress report is pretty brief.

Take your.

Spell, sell, pell, dell

hopscotch

So far, my villanelle is a palimpsest. Well, at least that sounds interesting. Until you look it up and the depths of my failure show up on my threadbare sheaf. Wish me luck!

The Bug in my Violin

The inside of a violin is a magical place. A silent, holy hall with skylights in its vaulted roof. The curved walls and the bare floor, the maker’s tag a rug in one corner. A brilliant photographer for the Berlin Philharmonic captured the resting glory of this chamber of sound. See.

Yesterday, I played my violin for my church as a sort of farewell since I am moving again. Since the zippers and clasps can be noisy in reverent moments, I did what I always do and got the violin and the stand and the music all set up well before worship began. I left it in the back, unattended. I can only assume that is how the BUG got in.

Yes, when I opened my case today, there was a huge and hideous BUG of the family of YUCK and the genus of GAH calmly sitting beside the shoulder of my Sleeping Beauty (aka, super loud obnoxiously high noise maker).

I’ve heard stories about bugs and violins. All of them involve the bugs eating the violins and/or the bow. Steeling myself, while shrieking, I rescued my violin and my bow and threw the case and the bug onto my brother’s porch. He can deal with the interloper when he gets home from work.

Panting and shivering, I reached for my violin when suddenly it occurred that the bug Might Not have Been Alone. What if this wasn’t a scout, but an invasion? What if my all of tranquility and harmony was Infested? What if the hoards of vileness had come to stay!?

I hid in the bathroom and called my mother. She says I have to put some pants on and confront my violin. She says I should shake the violin and listen for any exoskeletal buzzing. Then, if there is none, all is well. If there is, I should flee the scene, go to the movies and wait for my brother to come home and turn the evil ones out.I think I’ll do what she says.

Any minute now…any minute…

Lazy Sunday

I’m back in the saddle again. Audition season is coming up in September and I am aching not just do well, but to WIN this thing. You see, my favorite violinist, James Ehnes, is going to be in town. I have met him a few times, and aside from his showmanship and virtoustic technique, he is a great person. Unlike some artists, I have seen him come out into his audience to meet his fans. He is humorous and generous with all. And I have a chance to share a stage with him.

I’m practicing like a veritable fiend. Except when….

The Hammock to the Violinist

It’s too damn hot for Beethoven today
So cut the practice out and come and play.
Another metronomic moment more or less
Of droning, wearied, laboring excess
Won’t change the course of fortune anyway.

The snoozy, dozy Sun will melt away
The tension stored in shoulders, hands, and brain
With pulsing heat massaging out the stress;
But it’s too damn hot for Beethoven today

The music of the birds and trees at play
Inspires deeper vision, and you may
Be the better artist for a rest.
It’s a thought the Great Ones oft profess.
So cut the practice out, lie down and sway.
It’s just too damn hot for Beethoven today.