A blank sheet of paper… a blank screen… a blank canvas… your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to fill it. And, of course, you so chose. That’s why you are sitting there staring at it, feeling as if the only thing likely to self-destruct is the agent.
There are days like that. Sometimes it is the motivation that has been cut from under your feet by events beyond your control … events large or petty… and the fact that they can affect you so much says more, perhaps, about yourself than about the event. Sometimes the desire to begin, or to achieve… or to have finished… is itself so strong that it floods the surface of the mind and the flood barriers go up, shutting out the flow of inspiration.
A ticking clock, a knowledge of other obligations curtailing time seems to shrink it and before you have begun it will be time to stop. Or confidence suddenly takes a holiday and self-doubt takes advantage to rear up like a jack-in-a-box, mocking your dreams and flights of fancy.
Sometimes there is just you and the starkly virginal page in a world where nothing, not even thought, seems to exist. The moment may be brief, but it feels as if it stretches into eternity.
Then suddenly there is a mark on the paper, a word on the screen, a line on the canvas… and that is all it takes.
I remember when I was very small and my grandfather, a talented artist, showing me how to draw a squiggle in one fluid movement and make it into a picture. I even remember what he drew… a teapot and a dog. It was early education for an imagination that was to be well fed with a diet of myth and legend, poem and music… and all the fairytales and books it could listen to or read. I was uncommonly lucky in that, with both my grandfather and my mother writing stories I suppose no other child heard… and imagination was allowed to grow in whatever way it chose, linking dance to landscape and griffins to gargoyles.
Books were never out of bounds, if I could read the words I could read the book. Not that I understood all of them. I remember moving the stuffed alligator… I was probably about eight… and pulling D.H.Lawrence from the shelf after hearing my mother and Eileen, her friend, talking about it. Couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Well… I wouldn’t, not then. I could read the words but brought no experience to knowledge, so understanding was beyond me.
There were other books…odd books… ones my teachers raised eyebrows at. Looking back they were truly an odd collection ranging from Rampa to Blavatsky, Crowley to Fortune via Graves, Regardie, Budge and Khayyam. Without even mentioning the Frazer or Lytton or the various mythologies. I devoured them, mostly without any depth of understanding… but the seeds were sown. The love affair with the written word was born very early.
A quick mental calculation… there must be around 50 million words on my bookshelves. That’s a lot of blank pages that have been filled. A lot of poised quills, pens and fingers. A lot of staring into space seeking the inspiration of where to begin.
And all of them share something in common. They begin with a word.
That’s where inspiration begins… by making a start. A squiggle on a page. Until you make that first mark, take that first step into action, nothing is real. As soon as you do, you have begun. You’ve made it real. Happening. No longer a nebulous dream… a living thing that embraces life and blossoms.
Does it matter whether it is sensible or foolish in the eyes of others? Does it matter if what you create is profound or absurd? Beautifully crafted or a first wobbling foray into creativity? I don’t think so. It is, I think, the act of self-expression, the affirmation of uniqueness, the sharing of a personal vision of life that counts the most.
Nor is it confined to the creativity of the arts. We are our own creations and can take up the pen to write in the book of our own lives with equal inspiration. All we need to begin is that squiggle.