I’ve been walking a tightrope lately, or at least it feels like that. Oh, it’s not a real tightrope. It’s a metaphorical one, but just as tricky.
I watched an inspiring TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert recently and it got me to thinking. She’s the author of Eat, Pray, Love, a book that was an international best seller. She said the question everyone is asking is, “Can you write another best seller?” Wrong question. Then she went on to explain that in ancient Greece there was a Genius. It was a muse, a something that was out there. Anyone could call on it, learn from it, gain inspiration from it. The Romans did the same, only they called it a Daemon. And then at some time in Europe, someone pointed a finger at an individual and said he’s a genius. Big mistake.
I felt a huge sense of relief when I heard her say that. When I was twelve, my grandmother sent me the book A Tale of Two Cities. It was a well-worn library edition, a book from her library. I loved it and carried it for days after I finished reading it. Didn’t want to let it go. I longed to be a writer, but knew I would never be one, as I was no genius. I didn’t have the talent. Now if you’d have asked me what that word “talent” meant, I wouldn’t have been able to answer. But I did know there were certain people, like Dickens, Austen, and the Bronte sisters, who did have that talent. They were writers. I was merely a reader. It wasn’t until my children were grown that I even considered writing. Then it took the nagging of my father and my children to get me to even try.
But now I know differently. I now know how an idea can come, uncalled for, pesky, demanding to be jotted down. I have experienced waking at 2:00 in the morning with a full paragraph asking to be saved. Getting lost on the freeway is a common occurrence as my mind works over a tricky scene. I am humbled by the way subconscious thoughts can blossom into full chapters. I now realize that “genius” is still out there, a “genie” just waiting to have its tummy rubbed.
And that’s where the other side of that tight rope’s edge comes in. What’s also needed in order to produce writing is that familiar BIC—butt in chair. It’s the discipline needed to sit down at the computer and work. It’s making the time for the editor in me to get busy and turn that meandering thought into sense. It’s the perspiration part of inspiration that’s necessary.
It’s a tricky balance for me. Too much of the muse side and I wander about lost in my head. And if I spend all my time on the other side, the writing is stiff and boring. So I’ll continue slipping into one or the other and righting myself as quickly as possible. Walking the tightrope keeps me on my toes. Not a bad place to be.