There’s a scene in the movie, “The Devil’s Advocate” where one character is asking another if he’s good under pressure. Can you, the man asks, “summon it at will” your talent and skills? I’ve always liked that movie and that scene in particular. I’ve always claimed that I can write anywhere at any time, if I only have a keyboard on which to tap and a computer to save the files to somewhere. That may seem a lot to some, but look at what it takes for a sculptor to do the art he or she practices. I suspect someone who carves stone has much larger problems working than I can dream of having.
It is work, you know. When I write I look back over each sentence and wonder if I have missed anything. Did I leave a word out somewhere? Should I have used a different word? Is my meaning there or is it lost? But unlike the piano player, I can always go back and edit my work, even after it has been released into the wild. The wrong note at the wrong time in a concert and that’s all anyone will remember. Yet I still have it better than the artist of the keys. My work sits and waits for me and it will be in the form you now see. A musician might play a song and unless it is written down the air will take it away never to be heard again. The music of ancient Sumer is gone forever but thanks to clay tablets and cuneiform we can still read what they were writing about four thousand years ago.
I would love to know what they sang about four thousand years ago and if there was a torch song that a writer wrote and a singer sang that stopped hearts and moistened eyes like Adele’s “Hello”. We never pause in our efforts to wonder what it took to get us to where we are, and who it was that laid the foundations of art before us.
Someone I once knew went to school with Tom Petty and my friend said most people thought Petty was a loser because all he did was play his guitar under a tree and sing. Petty went on to have a successful career and I think the tree okay, too. The time spent in practice, be it with an instrument or a keyboard is not wasted time. Writing about writing, is still writing.
At times I will sit down with no idea at all what I will write about and this is one of those days. I have a killer who needs resolution with her killing, I have a Demon that needs a host, I have a bell ringer who needs to be heard, and I have an odd story about Worf that I have no idea why, but came to me in a dream. Don’t sweat it if you have no idea who Worf is. That was so 90’s.
But all of this is still work. It requires a great deal of effort and time and thought. It still takes what it takes and the amount of time I spend writing something is usually a fraction of the time it takes rewriting it. And rewriting it. And rewriting it. The one thing that forced me away from PCs and into getting a Mac was time. The time to took to recover writing from machines that died with alacrity was draining me. I can afford to take a hit when it comes to money but I will never get that time back. It all came down to how important was writing to me? This is the answer.
It’s a great thing to have a great machine but that still leaves the question open: Can you summon it at will? Can you open that vein and bleed? Can you step out and fly when pushed? Can you sit down and write even when there doesn’t seem to be anything at all there? Can you keep it going even when you’re tried and you haven’t slept well since Hillary was first lady the first time? The answer to that will always be one of effort. If you make the effort you can. If you try to write, and put the letters into words and the words into sentences and the sentences are somewhat related then suddenly you have a paragraph. Put enough of those in one place and you have a page. It may be work but there are only twenty-six letters to consider. Six of them are vowels. Writing is like the hardest game of Scabble you’ve ever played and you’re doing it alone, or with a Stri-ped Dog farting softly beside you. And your writing will be a lot like the dog’s farts, you know. You’re the one putting the stuff in and you have no one but yourself to blame for what comes out. That’s what this is all about really. What are you putting into it? What are you getting out? If you feed your dog stuff that’s not going to come out smelling the way you’d like I recommend a different diet. If you’re struggling to write then I suggest more effort. I’ve heard people say you can’t force yourself to write but why in the hell are you even putting your hands on a pen if force is something you ever have to use?
You and your Muse may disagree upon what you’re writing or what you should be writing, but as long as you are working you are writing and as long as you are writing you are working. Summon it at will. Make it come to you and ride it wherever it may take you. Whatever else may be, you’re going to get better at what you do as long as you keep doing it, and you keeping loving the process. Or at least the outcome. The process is work, real work, and that is what you have to Summon at will.