When I was in my 20s I used to say, “I write when an essay strikes me” or “I have to wait until it’s all there, inside me, ready to come out.”
What luxury. Possibility and time were abundant then; pure, delicious creativity the only motivator.
If I’d continued waiting for an essay to strike me (what did I think they were, electrical storms?), I’d never have been hired back by any editor I’ve worked with in the last decade. Nor have written all that I have. In my experience, the muse does not usually choose to strike conveniently during naptime, when I have an hour to meet a deadline if I am lucky.
There’s a lot to be said for inspiration. It’s nice when you can get it. But there’s also a lot to be said for good old fashioned butt-in-chair hard work.
My youthful muse has been trumped by responsibility and sleep deprivation. But that’s okay. I’d like to find my new, grown-up, battered-but-better muse—less whimsical but wiser, who I can access more or less whenever I need her. I know she’s in here under my wrinkles and yogurt-smeared pajamas.
Can one conjure creativity at will? I think so. By paying attention all of the time, and really focusing some of the time, I believe that magic can happen without impetus of thunder and lightning.