I began writing in 1976. Within three months I knew I had found my calling. I sat in front of my typewriter for four hours each day, “listening” for material. Images, intuitions, feelings and ideas appeared in response to my listening. I translated them into words, fashioned, developed and polished the words into stories, essays and experimental pieces, and developed as a writer.
Writing became an all-absorbing occupation, a continual process of learning, development, discovery and creation. It opened me up to the richness of my inner and outer worlds. When I went out into the world, I “listened” and “looked” with greater interest and attention. And I saw vignettes, stories, characters and dramas unfolding all around me.
For years, I observed life and the creative process, pondering the mystery of how, and from where, images, ideas, intuitions and stories appear. This gradually changed me, and defined my way of being in, and moving through the world.
After ten years of writing, with over fifty short stories, a screenplay, three half-completed novels, and thousands of pages of philosophical and experimental writing under my belt, I had a remarkable epiphany. I noticed that I had never created anything at all. I simply listened and looked, things appeared in my awareness, and I wrote them down. I wasn’t the source of what I wrote, any more than I was the source of my talent, my potential, my awareness, or my life. I was connected to the Source, utterly dependent on the Source, intimately related to the Source.
This recognition transformed my understanding and experience of the creative process. Instead of a solitary activity, hindered by recurring uncertainty and anxiety, writing became an increasingly joyous, fulfilling relationship with a mysterious Source of creativity that lived within me.
The ancient Greeks saw this creative Source as an indwelling spirit or deity, and called it the Muse. This perception matched my experience. I was an apprentice of the Muse, her midwife in the creative process. And as this relationship deepened over time, I became her devotee.
One night on a moonlight hike, ten years after this epiphany, a poem stream in to me from the Muse. This poem evokes the mystery and wonder of my relationship with the Muse, and my understanding of the creative process. So I offer it here.
In seeming aloneness I dwell in the company
of the Friend who never leaves.
The moon is my guide, and night herself is poetry.
She is the darkness whose wisdom is a mystery
that need never be solved.
A feeling called to me for years, from out of the darkness,
with a tightness in my chest.
It was terror with a purpose, the most intimate bodhisattva kiss.
Now it is love that will not be denied.
It calls me to awaken from a story that I’ve dreamed,
Met as friend and sipped like wine,
even terror turns to innocence
with a haunting sweetness I savor in awe.
This is the purpose of every desolation.
So let life swell in this container.
Let maelstroms dance in its core.
Let all pain turn to poetry.
Let every story, glittering, hypnotic, be undone.
Meanwhile I wander through the night,
enchanted castle of the Muse,
going madly nowhere in bliss,
endlessly savoring only This.
And in the silent ceaseless churning,
the sublime confusions of my foolish ever phasing lunar mind
are only variations of gratitude, invoking Her praise.
We are all food for the Muse.
We are digested in Her slow, exquisite grinding,
and reborn through Her dreams.
And it is more than worth the price we pay in Her service now.
And more than worth the price we paid, long in advance,
even in the torments of childhood, before we understood.
I know this to be true. So do you.
For I can hear in your words, and see in your eyes,
that the Muse also speaks and shines through you
from Her seeming darkness,
lighting the way…
The Author Consults With His Mews