Every artist who has successfully created works other people enjoyed is a slave to the creative muse. Each artist endures those horrible moments when they question their choice of career–they have a series of bad days and inspiration is far from their grasp. Every note they play, every word they write, every picture painted is dead and dull. Forcing it doesn’t help, and indeed drives it further away. These are the moments when we are walking in the Death Valley of creativity.
I have no magic bullet, no super-human powers of creativity to bestow upon you. For me, the joy of creativity in music, art, and writing is the rebellious feeling of stealing the time to do it. I make music, I do graphics, and I write, doing each whenever the muse strikes me.
In the old days I would come home from work with a small notebook full of ideas and after I had fed the masses, everything else would fall by the way while I put those ideas to paper. Even when you must earn a living, creativity must be allowed to flow when you feel it, because it is a finite commodity.
But I will tell you this: You Are Not Alone. Margaret Mitchell only published one book: Gone With The Wind.
Quoted from the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia: Margaret Munnerlyn Mitchell (November 8, 1900 – August 16, 1949) was an American author and journalist. One novel by Mitchell was published during her lifetime, the American Civil War-era novel, Gone with the Wind, for which she won the National Book Award for Most Distinguished Novel of 1936 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937. In more recent years, a collection of Mitchell’s girlhood writings and a novella she wrote as a teenager, Lost Laysen, have been published. A collection of articles written by Mitchell for The Atlanta Journal was republished in book form.
And did you know that Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde each only wrote one novel in their careers? I am assuming this was because they suffered from long periods of having nothing they thought was worthy to show the world.
Poe understood the value of writing the short story. While he is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, his body of work consisted of–wait–how many short stories did he write? “Almost eighty” it says on page 373 of the official volume of the Big Read. The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore says the number is sixty-nine – counting “both short fiction and novels.” This appears to be the most widely published number.
So how many short stories did Edgar Allan write? By all reports he was a troubled man, and it’s possible that not even he knew for sure.
Poe is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. Are we surprised? I don’t think so.
But though he is considered by many to be the most famous of our American authors, he only published one novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838) is the only complete novel written by our famous man, Edgar Allan Poe. The work relates the tale of the young Arthur Gordon Pym, who stows away aboard a whaling ship called the Grampus. Various adventures and misadventures befall the protagonist, Pym, including shipwreck, mutiny, and cannibalism, before he is rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy.
Indie author Mary W. Walters has written a wonderful blogpost on the subject of turning writers block into building blocks, available here.
So even if you feel the stream of creativity has run dry, it’s frustrating, yes–but nothing to get to worried about. At some point, when it is least convenient, that muse will strike again. You will once again feel that divine energy, that spark of madness that is the breath of life for a poem, a song, a novel or a painting. When you feel it, go with it.