My son was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to a week-long guitar workshop (the Crown of the Continent Guitar Festival) that takes place at the end of August every year on Flathead Lake in quaint Bigfork, Montana. This year the artists in residents were from various genres (jazz, blues, rock, classical, folk, country) and included Pat Matheny, Robin Ford, Lee Ritenour, Daryl Stuermer, Scott Tennant, Livingston Taylor and Mac McAnally. Because my son was there every evening, I went to several of the concerts, each one taking place with late summer not-too-warm, not-too-cold western Montana weather. Each one entirely inspiring.
I have written before on the type of things that help lure my muse: reading other authors, exercising, looking at artwork, visiting with other writers and so on, but I left out watching musicians perform. I definitely need to add them to the list. As I sat under the white tent under the Big Sky and watched the talented musicians get completely lost in their guitars, basses, keyboards and drums, it made me want to get lost in my computer keyboard, drumming out words instead of notes to tell a tale, to weave a plot, to use my imagination.
But as Kathy Dunnehoff mentioned in her last blog, the transition to that creative spot can be tough. Putting aside the daily work, chores and other habits to sit down and practice the craft is challenging, inspiration present or not. Even though my son was having the time of his life in Bigfork at the festival, he was also very stressed because he was missing the first week of his freshman year of high school and the first week of soccer practice. He had many transitions to make.
I was thinking the word transition had the same prefix as the word transpire, which has the same root as inspire – to breath into. Transpire means to happen, to take place, to materialize and come about. Trans means across or movement, a crossing or conveyance from place to place. Ultimately, we all need to feel inspired from time to time if we are going to make the transition to writing where we have made writing transpire and put words on paper. When that crossing takes place, it’s a very stress-relieving place to be, because ultimately, once that creative work has transpired, we truly feel as if we’ve had life “breathed” into us.
My son is in his third week of school now. His stress has melted away as he has crossed over from inspiration to the daily routine of making his schoolwork, guitar playing and soccer playing transpire. I am also slowly, but surely, making my next mystery happen as well. As we do this, often from pure willpower, we feel better. We feel inspired and the cycle continues until we break it with a bunch of laziness or unforeseen circumstances. When that happens, it’s back to all the old tricks to get inspired in the first place.
And if you can’t get inspired, then you simply have to sit down and do it anyway. As Tchaikovsky declared, “a self-respecting artist must not fold his hands on the pretext that he is not in the mood.” I promise: the very act of doing your creative work will breathe life into you.