End of writing, 3

Writing about writing is a self-contained experience which does not require external stimulus. It provides its own cascade of existence analogous to any ontological descent, at least in theory. It would be more than presumptuous of me to suggest I have the creative power of Shiva, and it would likewise be pure fantasy to suggest that I need no external stimulus to provoke ideas and especially expression. But, then, what do I need? The entire situation is artificial, as I do not "need" to write anything. In fact, it is more the reverse which is true: External stimuli produce an impetus to write. Why not quell this impetus, as I said before, why do anything at all? Armed with the knowledge that one need not desire, one can choose to participate in life — to interact with other people — fully cognizant of the decision as a decision. However, once undertaken, such participation cannot be taken lightly.


If as Gautama Buddha said, the cause of suffering is desire (and I think we can agree that the statement is both true and applicable — two different things), and one has already made the choice to desire, one must prepare for the suffering. In this case, it is a consequence of a desire to communicate, and the defining characteristic of the emblematic "suffering artist." More to the point, having adopted a certain course, one moves back & forth between being provoked to express and wanting to express, the latter failing for either forum or material. This is the quagmire of writer's block, or for the more practiced writer, the rut of uninspired or misdirected ramblings. I can always force myself to write, but under such conditions, will the result be any good? I am forcing myself to write today (it is Tuesday), so we shall see. Anyway, the simple fact behind all of this is that, if one is to be a writer, one writes. Inspiration does not necessarily correlate with schedule. One can remove the schedule, but that strikes me as entirely too easy, not to mention that it can lead directly to a lack of commitment. Choosing to participate in life is one thing, but do not get stuck in the middle.

You can see that lack of inspiration easily leads me to pontification. I merely recite the ideas which inspire me, and they can be dreadfully dull for others, especially those who have heard them before. Of course, I believe them very strongly, so they always seem meaningful to me. They are analogous to my favorite pieces of music, music which has become invested with so much meaning for me that it never becomes stale. Most of the time, barring some new ideas on performance to be expressed, I find myself having little interest in re-hearing music after some small number of times. I have internalized it; I remember it. I get nothing new from hearing it again, at least in a performance I know, or more broadly in a performance which does not expand upon what I have inferred. I do more than internalize, I make the interpretation more to my liking in my mind. Sometimes a new interpretation gives me new ideas (more often than not, it does not), and these are added to my mental image. Returning to an interpretation which once seemed fresh & exciting after a period of time usually yields the reverse impression. Since I have already stolen from it what I liked, it becomes inferior to my own. Given this, whether it is my own arrogance (amply displayed by today's opening paragraph, I might add), or the simple fact that my own images of a work are able to stand on the shoulders of giants (as the saying goes), I generally prefer silence. I prefer my own musical thoughts to someone else's, either because I already know them or because they are not very interesting in the first place. The former is not the fault of the interpreter of course, but usually of technology. If I were more accomplished in the maddening art of musical direction (or had more taste for solo music), perhaps I could share those thoughts with you more directly. One must certainly respect the suffering of people who work to cast their musical images into sound.

Obviously, music inspires me. If I go for a period without hearing anything new (whether piece or interpretation) which strikes my fancy, my other musings usually become more insular. I can continue to seek more in music I already know, but my cognitive abilities have always been good. Not finding anything new is at least partly my own fault, of course, since I could change the way I look. There are also diminishing returns, as my experience encompasses more. Why not be continually inspired by music I already know? This is a component, to be sure, but one which is almost inseparable from being inspired by myself in the absence of stimulus. Given that I have not adequately communicated things I already know or feel, why should I need anything new to communicate? This is a much better question, and comes again to the idea of "participating in life" rather than working from stasis. At some level, the communication is always about that stasis, but it is lacking something without interaction or dynamism. It is the dynamism which yields the ability to make connections with a broader audience, although it in itself cannot broach the basic message. This is why we continually reinterpret, because the communication can easily become stale, even if the underlying ideas cannot. The fire of communication relies on a spark, but the reservoir of fuel is there just the same.

As opposed to inner thought and reality, which are by their nature unchanging, the spark is by its nature changing, facing as it does the changing surface of the world. What can be inspiring one day is not necessarily inspiring the next. I wrote of mathematics as inspiration, something which has largely faded from my thoughts. I suggested then that summer meant flagging inspiration, yet I felt the opposite in May of this year. I finally sketched out several new columns once the weather turned warm & sunny. Weather affects me easily from one day to the next. I have no climate control, so it will be nearly a hundred degrees in here by afternoon today; in Winter, it will be in the forties some nights. I prefer to live this way, as it feels more alive. And now I am no longer forcing myself to write, but rather asking myself how I intend to wrap up this segment within the next few sentences, so weather has been good to me today. In fact, I got myself (and my family) into some trouble over the weekend, getting lost in difficult terrain in hot weather. Well, not exactly lost, but with an inability to get my children across an obstacle. It all turned out okay, although it might not have, and now I find what had been lingering fatigue from those events melting away in the telling. I had anticipated feeling fresh & inspired after a weekend of camping, but perhaps being reminded of my own frailties will be more refreshing in the end.

To be continued....

To TMM Editorial index.

Todd M. McComb