How to make art happen (or writing or dance or painting)

“The students are at the start of their creative lives, and I remember well what those years felt like — when you think you know what art requires, and then the realization comes that you must go deeper and deeper still (if you’re serious at all) into the unknowable, uncomfortable, vulnerable place where the root of creativity lies…which is to say, you must go deeper and deeper into yourself, which can be daunting indeed. Even now, after all these years, I still have days of sharp (or anxious, or befuddled) resistance to this act of deep surrendering…but the joy of age is that I know my own process now, the daily habits, practices, and mindset that will carry me past each block and obstacle and back into the work.” Terry Windling in “When the Magic is working” from Myth And Moor.

This 2014 post from Windling’s blog shows you why I like her work and why I return to her Typepad blog so often for fresh inspiration. I might also note that I read Theoroda Goss’ novels and blogs for the same reason. And so, too the former Endicott studio journal, featuring the work of Windling, Jane Yolen, Midori Snyder, and others. To read their work is to re-discover anew a deep well hidden in a sacred copse where magic lives in the deep water. Drink, and you’re transformed and living within, as Windling wrote, that deep and “vulnerable place where the root of creativity lies.

Life, as philosophers and comedians say, “ain’t easy.” The slings and arrows of daily life wound us again and again until the magic within our souls just about drains away. So we return to the well and drink again.

Every artist/writer/painter finds his/her own muse and his/her hidden well where s/he drinks and is refreshed. It might be an author (or group of authors) and their novels, essays, and poems; it might be the witch who lives down the street, or perhaps the “older generation” in one’s own family. We all must find the source of our magic and what makes it flow through our veins like holy fire.

You may not have anything in common with those who inspire you except for the inspiration they provide. None of the people associated with the blogs and studios listed above know me. We move in different circles. To great extent, they are interested in faerie and mythic worlds while I’m interested in contemporary fantasy and magical realism.

In time, the magic will live within you and you’ll find that you no longer have to return to that well (unless you’re sightseeing) to start your work. You will know what to see in your mind’s eye or how to adjust your breathing or your office or your desk because you will have done it so often that it will become, not second nature, but first nature. First nature for your art perhaps; or first nature for the way you live your life. The second approach works better for me: what I write on the page comes from how I live and what I believe rather than as a prop for making art.

I used to listen to music when I wrote. For one book it was “Nirvana Road.” For Another book, it was “Beneath The Raven Moon.” Music, I find, becomes associated with the work and with the magic behind it. Playing the music is like turning the ignition key in a car–or, these days, like holding down the brake while pushing the “start” button. Then things are purring at the right level and plain of existence, the writing flows because the magic is working.