When I was in college, I learned about “teachable moments.” I became aware of when I was like a fence post, impervious to new ideas and concepts and when I was like a sponge, ready to soak up everything. I was a hard working student, spending my time studying or working as a keypunch operator at the Cornell Campus Store. Most of the time, I muddled through my subjects, especially the ones that didn’t interest me. Nevertheless, there were specific times when a window opened, and I felt the cool breeze of knowledge flowing into my brain with almost no effort on my part. It was a lot like jump rope. I had to get in synch with the rope before I stepped over it. If I lost the rhythm, I got all tangled up. Learning to be in step with the teachable moments was the key to my academic success.
Creativity follows the same rules. She is a fickle mistress who arrives on her own terms, appearing like a puff of air on a hot day and disappearing just as quickly. I am sure you know what it’s like to sit and wait for creativity to show her pretty face. Without her, everything seems pointless and ineffectual. The words lay lifeless on the page. The plot is a tar pit, sucking you down into oblivion. The characters are comatose, the drama contrived and wooden.
When creativity sweeps into my study, everything opens up. The words come alive, dancing on the page. The plot clicks together like an intricate puzzle, each piece serving a precise purpose. My characters rise up and tell me exactly what to write. The drama becomes the natural extension of opposing personalities and motivations. These are the moments I live for as a writer. My slogging becomes singing.
Even so, creativity is fickle, and I never know when she will visit me. Sometimes she comes as I am rummaging through my desk drawer, wondering why I saved a piece of detritus from a long forgotten project. Other times she torments me, allowing me to wallow in a dull mire for hours. I have gained a new appreciation for the ancient mariners who found their grand ships trapped in the doldrums, windless wonders listing back and forth on a tranquil and meaningless sea.
I live in the hope of seeing Lady Creativity from time to time. It is her divine presence that makes me glad to be a storyteller. It is the promise of her return that keeps me from laying down my pen in dispair.