Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Blogger's Block: Miniature Disasters & Picasso

Is it possible to have blogger’s block? Blogging is supposed to be free-flowing, right? I’ve read successful writer’s blogs that sound like they were just chatting with friends over a cup of coffee. Genuine stream-of-consciousness stuff. How can they do that, knowing that hundreds of people are reading their words? Maybe that happens once you’ve got books published. Then you can relax on your blog because you know people can read your books to see your serious writing.

But for the rest of us, our blogs are our serious writing! So when the blog gets clogged, it’s time to call in the muses. For me, this usually involves music and art.

Mary Chapin Carpenter can usually get the juices flowing for me again … or Kris Delmhorst, or for sure The Wreckers. I was in Chicago in May and went to a Wreckers Concert at Joe’s Sports Bar, which was great fun. The next day I saw this in front of the Museum of Modern Art and thought it should be called “The Wreck” or “Earthquake.” Any other suggestions?

But late last night and early this morning it was KT Tunstall’s “Miniasture Disasters” that seemed to work for me. You can listen to it and watch KT sing it live here. And read the full lyrics at the end of this post. Some of what inspires me in this song is this:

It’s gonna be up and down
It’s gonna be lost and found
And I can’t take to the sky
Before I like it on the ground.

She reminds me of the earthy work involved in writing… and remembering, again and again, that loving the work itself is the most important thing. The process. (Rather than getting published – the pie in the sky part.)

And this part:

It’s a hindrance to my health
If I’m a stranger to myself.

Knowing ourselves is also hard work. Especially when it involves looking inside and sometimes finding darkness. Or emptiness. Or loneliness.

Art helps.

Like this painting by Picasso, “Interior With A Girl Drawing.” The girl in green seems to be enjoying the process of her art… of drawing. But what about the girl in purple? The one with her head on the table and her hands clasped in front of her? Is she depressed? Is she waiting for inspiration so she can also draw? Or write? Or sing?

The artist Robert Henri has a wonderful book called The Art Spirit. These words help:

Find out what you really like if you can. Find out what is really important to you. Then sing your song. You will have something to sing about and your whole heart will be in the singing…and If a man has something to say, he will find a way of saying it.

Wassily Kandinsky writes in Concerning the Spiritual in Art

If the artist be priest of beauty, nevertheless this beauty is to be sought only according to the principle of the inner need, and can be measured only according to the size and intensity of that need. That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.

I think it’s working. I can feel the juices flowing again. Today will be devoted to more re-writes on the novel. With help from my muses in the worlds of music and art. KT Tunstall. Picasso. Robert Henri. Wassily Kandinsky. Michelle Branch and Jessica Harper (The Wreckers).

And spiritual comfort from the Apostle of Love. Today is the Feast Day of Saint John the Evangelist and Theologian… the one who wrote the book of Revelations while on the island of Patmos. (See my post of September 22.) St. John was inspired by a higher muse for higher work than novel writing. After attending a funeral yesterday, and then visiting a dear friend who is dying of cancer, St. John’s words blessed me as only words divinely inspired can do:

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Miniature Disasters by KT Tunstall

I don’t want to be second best
Don’t want to stand in line
Don’t want to fall behind
Don’t want to get caught out
Don’t want to do without
And the lesson I must learn
Is that I’ve got to wait my turn

Looks like I got to be hot & cold
I got to be taught and told
Got to be good as gold
But perfectly honestly
I think it would be good for me
Coz it’s a hindrance to my health
If I’m a stranger to myself

Miniature disasters and minor catastrophes
Bring me to my knees
Well I must be my own master
Or a miniature disaster will be
It will be the death of me

I don’t have to raise my voice
Don’t have to be underhand
Just got to understand
That it’s gonna be up and down
It’s gonna be lost and found
And I can’t take to the sky
Before I like it on the ground

Miniature disasters...

Well I must be my own master...
I’ve got to run a little faster...
I need to know I’ll last if a little
Miniature disaster hits me
It could be the death of me


Meribeth said...

I have no idea why, but when I looked at the photo with the trailer stuck in the ground all I could think was, "too much baggage..." Maybe that's a nod to what's been floating around in my head lately...hmmm.

Susan Cushman said...

That's perfect, Meribeth! Especially since I've started trying to organize things to pack for 12 days in Greece... in a small carry-on and a small backpack. that's all I'm taking! So maybe I won't end up like the trailer in the modern art piece! Thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Sue tried to post the following, but it landed in my email box instead:

"The Wreck" or "Earthquake." Other suggestions? How about, "The Future of ...Art?" The Picasso - I like the passion of the girl in purple; there's an intensity and yet a peacefulness about her, good things in the midst of creativity. Soul-stirring thoughts on this blog (again). Thanks...

Erin said...

Kandinsky on beauty and the spiritual in art - there's a loaded topic. He, of course, builds on some of Nikolai Gogol's ideas, but I don't think Gogol would have found Kandinsky's art to be the beauty that Gogol said was essential. Rather it would be the opposite of what Gogol preached. Is Kandinsky one of your muses?

Susan Cushman said...

Erin, you assume I know much more than I do about Kandinsky, Gogol, et. al.... "Muse" was too big of a word for me to give Kandinsky... or KT Tunstall, for that matter! (She just happened upon my radar yesterday... might not show up there again for months.) The creative spark in me is fueled by a broad spectrum of music, art, dance and literature. (Sometimes architecture. But also fashion.) I was first drawn to Kandinsky by his paintings. Then as I read a little, I liked how he synthesized music (even dance) and art and some mythical stuff. Gogol... The Overcoat, right? I'm not familiar with his beliefs. I had no idea that he and Kandinsky had opposite views on anything.... your pedigree is showing! (or my lack thereof!) I wouldn't know enough to say whether or not the beauty of Kandinsky's art is "essential" ... I just enjoy it. Sometimes.

What moves me is often much less ethereal stuff ... I just got weepy watching Martina McBride sing "Anyway" on CMT... so there you go.

So... I'm using "muse" pretty loosely here. And certainly not in a seriously spiritual realm.

I love hearing from you. Adds a little ivy league to my blog:-)

Erin said...

Uh, not really ivy league . . . More like "someone who has sort of read a few things." Literature isn't really my area anyway. I like a lot of Kandinsky's art, too. For Gogol's thoughts on art, read his short story "The Portrait." Not saying I agree with him or that I don't agree with him, it's just interesting. I'm not sure if I have an opinion about art and beauty as it relates to the spiritual. And I've never even read Kandinsky's book on the topic. I do like a great art museum, though. Actually, Lex is studying Kandinsky in his art class this month. Yes, Kandinsky is in his 1st grade curriculum. Cool, huh? The art curriculum is my favorite of everything Lex is doing this year.

Erin said...

Oh, and I love the way that Kandinsky combines music with the visual arts. That is so fascinating to me. Feeds the long-ago dancer in me, I think.