Throat Chopping the Muse

I’m still giddy from my New York City trip.  I met and reconnected with some amazing people. During the Saturday evening Jack Kent Cooke Symposium  I was given the opportunity to talk about publishing and getting a book published with other writers and an agent.  The JKC recipients present a special audience to talk to as everyone of them has achieved something great and has proven that they have the fire in the belly for the field they study and indeed anything they choose to pursue.

As I prepared for what I might talk about I thought of creativity.  In 2011 I was driving across the flat expanse of southern Kansas head toward Holcomb when NPR’s Radiolab came on.  Elizabeth Gilbert author of Eat, Pray, Love began to talk of creativity and what she had learned from Tom Waits working on a 2002 GQ interview, “Play It Like Your Hair’s On Fire.”  I came away with a different way of talking about producing creative works or problem solving in general.  I’ve never believed in writer’s block.  Sure sometimes it’s harder than other times and sure the quality can be suspect, but when I have a deadline I feel morally compelled to make it whether it was for a class or a submission. Waits takes no crap from muses.

“There are songs, he said, that need to be bullied. He said he’s been in the studio working on a song and the whole album is done and this one song won’t give itself over and — everyone’s gotten used to seeing him do things like this — he’ll march up and down the studio talking to the song, saying ‘The rest of the family is in the car! We’re all going on vacation! You coming along or not? You’ve got 10 minutes or else you’re getting left behind!’”


“he was driving down the eight lane freeway in LA when suddenly a melody came into his head. Because he was driving he had no pen or paper, no recorder, no way of capturing this tiny, beautiful bit of music that had magically appeared. His frustration and disappointment at his inability to capture the music brought to the fore the kind of artistic insecurities we all go through from time to time. But then, all of a sudden, he looked up at the sky and said ‘Excuse me. Can you not see that I’m driving? If you’re serious about wanting to exist then I spend eight hours a day in the studio. You’re welcome to come and visit me when I’m sitting at my piano. Otherwise, leave me alone and go bother Leonard Cohen’.”

He said “the best songs of all are those that enter you ‘like dreams taken through a straw. In those moments, all you can be, ‘Waits says,’ is grateful’.”

Happy Thanksgiving, now go out and create something.

2 Replies to “Throat Chopping the Muse”

  1. I really like that attitude to “the muse.” I tried to “like” this post, but it won’t accept my affection.

  2. lucewriter: I wonder why the like button didn’t work. Hmmm. I’m still trying to figure out all the intricacies of blogging. Thanks for reading, commenting and liking, though. I do appreciate it.


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