Calling on the Muse

Even when you think nothing is happening, the creative process is always working.

Thelonious Monk Quartet

Thelonious Monk Quartet

I’m going to state the obvious: The creative process is not the same for everyone. Each of us come to the page, the canvas, the instrument, the marble, the clay, with something we feel we need to express. For some, it may be merely esthetic, for others, it will have a message, either social, political or deeply personal. In the end, though, what drives us to create anything is this insatiable desire, this need to express ourselves. It is part of what makes us human beings, after all. Something drove those Cro-Magnon people living in the caves of southern France to wander all the way to the back of their cave to merely blow some red ochre over their hand, an image left for us to see tens of thousands of years later. This urge to create has been with us since the dawn of humanity.

I began as a musician, having played in rock bands well into my thirties. Writing was something I came to much later in life, although I had always written, but it always took a back seat to the music. It wasn’t until I was thirty years old that I seriously began to pursue the art of writing. It began with poetry, then eventually moved towards fiction, essays, articles and all sorts of things. But there is one poem from my book “Existential Labyrinths” (Black Spring Press, 2003) that I feel captures the essence of the creative process—or at least my own creative process.

When I was writing poetry exclusively, I had a routine. I would often write at night, sitting alone in my one room hovel in New York City and the goal would be to write at least five poems a night, no matter how awful some of them may be. The idea was to just “get it out”, whatever thoughts, feelings or ideas I may have had. Some nights went along swimmingly, others, not so much. I found myself literally staring at the computer screen, and absolutely nothing would happen. During one of these bouts of not feeling the muse, I just began to type, and this poem seemed to magically appear:

A Sort of Mirage

Shadows in ink.

On such evenings I’m

too tired to applaud the maestro

but a fresh maté soothes nevertheless.

War has not been declared

and there is not one fraction

of my life left behind.

There are a lot of commas

and etceteras lying about the hallway

waiting to be used, waiting to be set free

to dance across the page.

They seem to comfort each other

after these outbursts;

a sort of mirage

these words I cannot grasp.

~~*~~

A little obscure, sure, but after reading it over a couple of times, it dawned on me that I had written something about trying to come up with something to write about. Sometimes one never knows when inspiration will strike and when the muse (or the “maestro” in this particular case) will offer her hand to you and tell you to just get on with it.

I’ve since moved away from poetry into the realm of fiction, most likely because I needed a larger canvas so to speak in order to get across what I wanted to say. Just following wherever the muse leads me. She may be beautiful but she’s not always cooperative and I suspect that these bouts of writer’s block that occur at times is her way of saying that she will only lead me there, not do the work for me. There’s got to be some effort, some actual work involved. To create any form of art is often very hard work. It rarely comes easy. But if you are committed and you are serious you can achieve some amazing things and the proof of this is all the amazingly talented people that are out there doing some amazing things (whether independently or traditionally); and life is much richer because of it.

~~*~~

Biography

Julian Gallo

Julian Gallo

Julian Gallo is a musician/writer/painter who has poems and short stories published in about 40 magazines and journals throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and also has 10 books under his belt: “Standing On Lorimer Street Awaiting Crucifixion” (Alpha Beat Press, 1996), “The Terror of Your Cunt is The Beauty of Your Face” (Black Spring Press, 1999), “Street Gospel Mystical Intellectual Survival Codes” (Budget Press, 2000), “Scrape That Violin More Darkly Then Hover Like Smoke In The Air” (Black Spring Press, 2001), “Existential Labyrinths” (Black Spring Press, 2003), “Window Shopping For A New Crown of Thorns” (Lulu Press, 2007), “November Rust” (Lulu Press, 2007), “My Arrival Is Marked By Illuminating Stains” (Lulu Press 2007), “A Symphony of Olives” (Propaganda Press, 2009) and “Divertimiento” (Propaganda Press, 2009). His second novel “Naderia” (Beat Corrida) was released in January 2011 and his third, “Be Still and Know That I Am” (Beat Corrida) was released in September 2011. He is also currently playing guitar and bass for NYC singer/songwriter Linda La Porte.

Connect with Julian
Web Site | Twitter: @JulianGallo66

 

Title

November Rust

November Rust

Naderia

Naderia

Be Still and Know That I Am

Be Still and Know That I Am

 

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  1. “In the end, though, what drives us to create anything is this insatiable desire, this need to express ourselves.”

    Incredibly true. I’ve been accused of being overly opinionated, and I always reply, “No. I’m just a writer.”

    “She may be beautiful but she’s not always cooperative and I suspect that these bouts of writer’s block that occur at times is her way of saying that she will only lead me there, not do the work for me.”

    I wish such a beautiful statement wasn’t about such an ugly thing. Writer’s block is BEYOND painful, but as you said, you need to go full steam ahead and do the work.

    Another wonderful piece, Julian.

  2. I’ve read Julian’s work for a few years now and can say his three novels are superb, especially Naderia. He has definitely honed his voice into something special because he has put the work in and has a rare talent. Great writer, highly recommend any of his books.

  3. Thank you Jen & Garry for your kind words and support. It is always greatly appreciated as you know. Thank you both for being there.

    • Julian, I enjoyed reading your observation of words “waiting to be used, waiting to be set free to dance across the page,” and then your confirmation of that, in your epiphany: “it dawned on me that I had written something about trying to come up with something to write about.” It was a refreshing peek right into the roots of your creative process. Isn’t it that the nitty-gritty of creation: communicating with an ‘alive’ inner spirit?

      I agree with you, that desire and primal urges drive us to create. I suppose there is a level of creativity that might not involve those two things—I’m thinking of graphic design (advertising)—but, given that, I believe the audience can tell the difference.

      I am also curious to know more about the creation of ‘Thelonious Monk Quartet.’ Would you give us some insight?

      Julian, great piece. Thank you for scraping down to the foundations of the creative process.

      • Thank you for your kind words, Terre. I appreciate it. There’s really not much behind the painting other than I was listening to Thenolious Monk when I was painting it – and tried to come up with a sort of abstract version of what I was listening to. At the moment, I can’t remember which song it was but that was sort of the thing behind it. An experiment mostly. Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you again for everything. :-)

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