I’ve been looking at, listening to, trying to learn from, the wrong people.
Heroes isn’t the right word. Mentors, perhaps, or role models. Or muses might be it. Yeah, that’s closer, at least. Let’s say my Muses.
This whole ramble began about two months ago, when I came across an article in the local paper headed “Contest invites state residents to write about favorite poem.” I read it, dismissed it for a day, then suddenly realized that, yes, I do have a favorite poem, and I can damn well write an essay about it.
So I did. Took longer than I expected it would — important things usually do — but I’ve finished it, and sent it off to the judges. Won’t know for at least a month how I made out, and won’t try to post it here until after the judging.
About Muses. Working on that essay reminded me of what I like to do, and in most respects, what I do best: I write. Not as well as I’d like, but better than I act, or any of the other creative outlets I’ve tried. Trying to write better, I’ve often looked for guidance, instruction, from the creative authority du jour. Study the authority’s words, apply them to my own work, see if they make it fly.
Hasn’t worked yet, and probably never will.
So I took another look at writers. Not at those most popular or critically acclaimed right now, but at those whose work I recall from reading through the years. Those I grew up on and still refer to with joy and admiration. Two names sprang immediately to mind. Ursula le Guin and Ray Bradbury. By marvelous happenstance, this morning I came upon a speech Bradbury delivered to prospective writers about thirteen years ago.
A muse doesn’t tell you what to write or how to write it. A muse puts you into the moment, into the spirit, into the world in which you can write whatever is in your soul.
Bradbury’s address is nearly an hour long, and there’s a brief ad at the beginning, but if you’ve a creative bent, or a curiosity about living the life you love, this will be worth the time.