Avoid Dependence on the “Lady in the Long Blue Gown”

You know the lady. She’s visited your house on some occasions and you were so happy to see her, you wanted to sit her down to turkey dinner, share some of your favorite oatmeal cookies, then listen to her pour out that good old inspiration. The muse, of course! We pray the lady in the long blue gown will barge into our writer’s block and make the blank-page blues--or blank-screen blues--go away. Well, it just isn’t going to happen!

The idea of a muse is amusing. Wouldn’t it be too easy if every time we wanted to write a poem we simply sat there contemplatively waiting for an inspiration handout and the poem got written without our efforts? Sometimes I think we are brought up to think this way. When we are young, we ask for things and we get them. We make mistakes and somebody covers for us. Santa Claus comes, whether we’ve been naughty or nice, and decorates the bottom of our tree with gifts we often do not deserve or need. However, now that we’ve grown up, let’s also toughen up!

What happens when we rely on that occasional inspiration? We find one more excuse upon which to rest our lazy bones. If a poem does not materialize, we say it wasn’t meant to be. If we sit there in a dry spell, we rationalize it away by saying all poets suffer through these losing streaks. How foolish!

Co-dependency of any kind is self-defeating. It prevents the individual from reaching his or her potential, even when it is a silly reliance on a so-called muse whom we depend upon to feed us poems.

How Do We Divorce Ourselves from the Lady in Blue?

Basketball players sink baskets, not because their shots are lucky ones, but because they practice hard and long. Ever watch an ice skater glide across the ice, negotiating turns as if she were weightless? How does she do it? we wonder. Years before that impeccable performance, the ice star took many a hard fall, racked up scores of black-and-blue marks and ego bruises, but raised herself up to try, try, try again.

We poets must learn from the successful. Once they were mediocre, but they wanted so much more. They invested the time and the sweat and whatever it took to become great. They decided to make a habit of hard work eventually pay off for them. The key words I
would like you to pay special attention to are “habit” and “hard work.”

Let’s stop writing when the spirit moves us. If we really mean it when we insist writing poetry makes us happy, why aren’t we writing poetry more often? Don’t we want to be happy?

Writing is a craft like any other; it demands practice. Try telling yourself you will write something every single day. Settle on a particular time in the day, if possible. It’ll be easier to keep the appointment if you do. Do nothing but write for a half hour or even an hour. It doesn’t matter what you write: a poem, a letter, an idea for a short story, a plan to save the world from terrorists—anything!

Also, settle on a particular place. I go to my computer in the morning after my shower at about 6:00 A.M. I read my e-mails and respond for a half hour or I send a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, expressing my pro or con views on some issue I care deeply about. Then in the evening at about seven I return to my computer and write something more creative—a poem, a story—and I will remain there for about an hour. I know this is a habit I’ve grown into. I miss my writing if something unavoidable prevents me from sitting there tapping ideas onto my computer screen. It is a special time for me and my creative self.

Writer’s Block will plague you less often if you cultivate the habit of writing everyday. The brain thrives on repetition. I once told a student of mine who had a terribly depressed self-esteem to repeat everyday at least fifty times: “I am somebody. People like me a lot. Someday I will be famous.” That was in November. By June he was a changed boy! His brain had gotten the message so many times, it graced him with a self image he could be proud of.

One more thing. There is a wealth of ideas stored inside the brain behind a heavy iron door. It can be opened a creak at a time, if explorers are willing to persist. They must approach that massive door everyday with the conviction that in time enough of the door will open to allow even a body-squeeze entry. Once inside the treasure house, these explorers find enough glittering words to assemble into poetry. They also find among the jeweled phrases the key that unlocks the heavy door.

Disciplining oneself to consistently write something is invaluable. It opens the brain door. It rewards the poet. It facilitates creativity. It waves goodbye to the too-seldom-seen lady in blue who stands at the portal of creativity, a basket of poem goodies in her hand.

Salvatore Buttaci’s work has appeared widely in publications that include New York Times, U. S. A. Today, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, Cats Magazine, The National Enquirer, Christian Science Monitor, A Word with You Press, Thinking Ten, Pen 10, and Six Sentences. He was the recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award in 2007. He was also one of the winners in the 2011 Franklin-Christoph Fine Writing Instrument Poetry Contest.

His collection of flash fiction, 200 Shorts, is the new follow-up to his collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts. Both published by All Things That Matter Press are available in book and Kindle editions at http://www.kindlegraph.com/authors/sambpoet

His new book If Roosters Don’t Crow, It Is Still Morning: Haiku and Other Poems:
Haiku and Other Poems. http://tinyurl.com/7ssnzg4

Buttaci lives in West Virginia with Sharon, the love of his life.
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