Creative Wordshops June 2019 Writing Newsletter

re-story, re-create and re-imagine your life and work See ‘what’s on’ for upcoming wordshops, retreats and ongoing opportunities I only paint when I’m inspired and I make sure I’m inspired at 7 o’clock each morning (unknown)

Inspiration and Craft

Dear writer, story teller, reader, lover of words

This month I write of the paradoxical dance between inspiration and craft. It’s a Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire affair. When researching for The Writer’s Voice at Stanford in the early 90’s, I sat enthralled in an old movie house watching Swingtime (1936),a movie that my parents courted to in the late 1930s. Craft and spontaneity. Learning the steps then forgetting them – so much like writing. Creative souls have long meditated on this dance. Genius is one per cent inspiration, ninety-nine per cent perspiration. (Thomas Edison) I go to my studio every day, because one day I may go and the angel will be there. What if I don’t go and the angel comes?”(Philip Guston)

Inspiration is perhaps more elusive… wrapped in mystery. An insight, a wonder meeting… our readiness… being breathed into …the child mind… holding ourselves in aha readiness.. Like the child who reasons that if you can wake up after sleep, then you can wake up more when awake. And craft’s triplet siblings are discipline and graft. Craft implies form which connects our feet to the road and our breathing to the wind. It also evokes apprenticeship. In the old days of Guilds, people apprenticed to a trade. Silversmith. Metalwork. Sorcery.

The roots of this word are entangled in disciple. A young initiate was a disciple to a trade. You watched the master craftsmen at work, imitated and absorbed. In the story, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, the apprentice is told Don’t start what you can’t finish. Nulla dies sine linea (Never a day without a line) (Pliny) You learn the trade and then go your own way, finding your own voice, perhaps working against all you have been taught.

In Istanbul recently we visited the Pierre Lotti café – named after a French naval officer who used that pseudonym in his love story Aziyade. A semiautobiographical tale based on his journal (1876). It records Loti’s illicit affair with the 18 year old harem woman Aziyadé, his heart’s delight. I bought the book there for it reminds me of Arabian Nights , the medieval collection of stories. Scheherazade tells the Sultan a story a night for 1001 nights and saves not just her life, but the lives of all the young women in the empire.

The composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov created though his music a sense of middle eastern story. His symphonic works included Scheherazade. How did inspiration and craft play out in the 1001 tales? Here’s my sense of her dance. (Many ballet companies have danced the tale)

How to stay the Sultan’s Sword how did she stay that morning sword? night after night in the king’s chambers after the sex, sleep and wakefulness the wise, the witty, the well-read and bred, Scheherazade, her hair lustrous and tressed with ribbons and snakes of tales beguiled Shahryar with jeweled words set in gold he who beheaded each night’s virgin wife. as dawn broke its fast she paused the tale. cliff edged mid-sentence. left him longing for and then? in daylight hours did she absorb stories, learn poems by heart, carrying in her belly the seed of the climax and denouement? knotting a kelim in her consciousness and cortex? or did she in the moment allow it to arise as a self-surprise, spontaneous as a nightingale glittering as a scimitar suddenly unsheathed as she in skill and craft breathed and awaited the light of each new day? perhaps a touch of both modes, rehearsed magic and moment, pace and pause, timing and tension, taking her cue from his eyebrow twitch, seeking amazement in his open mouth. Scheherazade in slow mode seduced the Sultan civilized him, till he tale entranced by the time of the 1001st once there was crowned her his Allah given story queen.