Thoughts: Unplugging Corks

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I am sitting in my favorite diner.

How many columns have I started with that sentence? A lot of them. It’s the sentence I use to get myself started when I am not feeling “it”.

You know “it”. Inspiration. All us writer/artists/creatives thrive on it. We use a lot of words to describe it. “Flow.” “Magic.” Pick your word. It’s something that just comes to us and whatever we do suddenly takes on a life of its own and comes easily and well. I can well understand why we use magical words to describe it.

Or maybe we use spiritual words. The word inspiration after all, has roots that mean “God Breathed.”  How wonderful to think that God is breathing our art through us, whatever that art may be. For a lot of us, that whole mystical thing has an appeal.

For me, it’s mostly about getting unstuck. I seem to get stuck more than most.

Maybe it’s a man thing. Studies show that, on average, women speak about 13,000 words a day more than men. The score, if you are the scorekeeping type, is about 7,000 words a day from us male types, while women average around 20,000.

Maybe it’s an introvert thing.  One article I read said introverts “ration” words. I don’t know if that is true, but we do talk less. A lot less.

So I am a male introvert. It’s a wonder I ever get any words out.

I am a male introvert, who for reasons that will stay between me and my therapist, struggles with feelings. I have to work to define them. It’s something I work on, literally every day of my life, journaling my feelings in a very specific way to make it easier for me to, in day to day life, be able to define how I feel. Fourteen years of journaling nearly every day and I’ve gotten much better, but I’ve learned that it’s like staying in shape – you have to keep it up to stay strong.

And so I write every day. Literary yoga. Strength and flexibility.

Most days it is poetry. I don’t know why poetry resonates with me in a way prose does not. I’m not bad at both. People actually pay me to write things. People buy my books. They show up on my blog each day. So I am not terrible at it. There’s some value to someone in my words.

But the real value is to me. It’s a daily shaking off of the emotional rust that seems to come too easily to me.  A constant chipping away of the barnacles.

Fortunately, my brain is pretty trained. Give it a certain place, a certain phrase and it seems to know it’s go time. Muscle memory.

Yeah, really.

The brain after, all is just a specialized muscle kind of thing. We train it. We teach it who we are and what we are. We train it to see the world a particular way. We train it to look through rose-colored glasses or cynicism. And we can train it to be creative on demand.

Most of the time, we let our brain be the boss, forgetting that we can be the boss and make our brain think a certain way, act a certain way, more or less on demand. He works for us, not the other way around.

Yeah, really.

So for me, I can write “I am sitting in my diner.” and my brain knows it has a job to do. It needs to fill in all the empty space after that sentence. It never fails. I write that one line and stuff comes out. Never the same stuff twice.

I have no idea where it comes from. It’s like unplugging a cork. Stuff just comes. My brain is trained to do that by now, and I do it every day (except Sundays. I give my poor brain a rest.) and stuff comes.

It’s taken time to get this way. Just like exercise or training for a sport. You do it and do it and eventually it becomes automatic. What isn’t automatic is WHAT comes. The uncorking comes but not all of it is good. Some of it is wonderful, sublime. Some of it is miserable slime, full of pain and ugly stuff. I cease to be the creator. I become the scribe.

Hmmm. Maybe there is some magic involved after all.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

PS: I never write “I am sitting at my favorite diner.” unless I really am sitting at my favorite diner. That would be cheating.

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