Inspiration Outside of Me

I have finished a Masters in Arts, Creative Writing, at UTS, in June 2015. At the time I didn’t feel the accomplishment, the excitement in finishing up, just a bit of relief. I loved the course most of the time, I loved almost all classes and felt inspired throughout. At the end I was feeling it was just a bit too much outside input into my writing and I was loosing myself.

When I completed the final assignment I was left with more questions than answers. I started the course to gain technique to write in English, but more specifically, the project I used throughout the course: my non-fiction, written like fiction, comedic, novel, about my friend who is a Brazilian, migrated Australian, who has been a belly dancer in Sydney, performing mostly in the middle Eastern Communities of the city.

As you can notice, it is a complicated project and I needed help to set it up. The inspiration and the stories are not a problem, how to link them, present them and frame them is my challenge.

I had hoped that by the end of the Masters I would have found this structure, but I found only the questions I need to answer in order to find this structure and a bit of a sense of being lost.

I gained a lot of technique and believe I am much better equipped now then before I started. I have a thicker skin and a knowledge of where to look for information too.

By the time the Graduation Ceremony arrived I was able to release the impressions of not getting as far as I wanted and had the most beautiful day  with my sister and my friend (the Muse, the Character).

The following day, it was Elizabeth Gilbert who made me realise why I felt and should feel happy and accomplished. We have TED Tuesdays at work and we watched Elizabeth’s talk that day.  She explained that a valid idea is to think of  divine inspiration as, well, divine, as is coming from outside you.

I remembered that when I was in classes no teacher would say: you chose the voice, the tone, the verbal tense, define the character and then you pray, or talk to your daemons, or to your genius, and ask for guidance. As it would be expected, we are taught to control, to wrestle with our internal intellectual gifts and bend the words into shape.

I realised that was the one thing I forgot during these studies, the thing I lost connection with, the part that lives outside of me: the sudden, potent, and magical inspiration that makes a text become funny with a few twists of words, or that make people love what you wrote even when it is imperfect.

When I heard Elizabeth talking about this part of the creative process that is not my own I was relieved of the responsibility to do it all alone, by myself, with my second language, happen. I was given the solution to all my problems and the certainty that it will come to me, and the book will be able to carry the immense fun that the stories are.

I have a super-power, an intuition capable of seeing through the veil of what is hidden to the naked eye. Sometimes I know things without an explanation and most times, when these things can be confirmed, they are as I predicted. I have an intuition about this book, I think it will be important.

The second thing the talk gave me was a confirmation of why I was feeling accomplished. Elizabeth explains that artists have one responsibility: keep doing what they love, keep sweating and showing up to their art. That is the only way your genius will find you. I also concluded that honing your technique and getting better and better at it will allow you to transmit the divine inspiration into shape. Imagine what would happen if Van Gogh was able to see the sunflowers in his mind but didn’t know how to paint. His genius would have gone somewhere else.

With these two thoughts — that an artist has to show up to her art and that technique allows you to make real your ethereal inspirations — I saw my new testamur as the proof of how much I am so committed to this art and that I am doing my part, I am showing up to my writing.

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The Structure

How I structure my ideas is firstly by keeping notes in any way on my reach to put down ideas. In paper, on the phone, in voice notes and written bits and pieces. Early morning, middle of the night, and during the day.

Then I expand these notes to include the details that kept coming to me with or without my authorisation. The filling of these ideas assault me in dreams, in the shower, when I go to the toiled during my working day. But they come more when I am walking.

Next I start writing what needs to be put down, the parts that if I don’t make real will keep annoying me incessantly, these are the texts that won’t go away, that will fill my thoughts and ideas until they are resting in a physical form.

Following I have to organise where it all goes and write the other bits, the ones I had only the sketches for before.

Depending on the project it doesn’t have a pre-created structure. The book I have written in Portuguese, Simplesmente Gerva, has been created in a series of emails between my co-author and myself, and we never knew what the other was going to write.

I am now writing the continuation of this book and, although I am writing on my own, I am being faithful to the proposal. I don’t know much of what is going to happen to the character, I sit down to write and let him take me wherever he wants.

Sometimes a whole idea is born from one thought, one example is the one I mentioned in another post: what would a writer do if they didn’t have the means to write and which situation would that be.

To surmise, I impose no rules to myself. Whatever works, works.

The Technique

I write using the many parts of myself. I write using both my home language, Portuguese, and my adopted language, the one of my fantasies and dreams, English. One day I may write in French, who knows. I write using the young me that lives inside and the older one. The wise and the silly. I write using my South American style, some fantastic reality, chopping off sentences (see the one just before) while writing really long paragraphs in other times.

I write with my own sense of fun, my original abilities and I have upgraded my technique with a Masters degree in Arts – Creative Writing from UTS. I am far from a literary writer, (as far as I can, actually), I aim to write in a straightforward way in plain English (or plain Portuguese, from Brazil). This was not without challenges during my studies, it was difficult to separate what was valid feedback on my style and what was my own Brazilian flavour, or what was because of the simplicity in the style. I guess I am still searching for this distinction.

I write following mostly the inspiration and the voice I found when I was seventeen, but try to give it a bit more style and maturity. I keep honing the knowledge, keep reading, listening and viewing anything that will enrich and feed my writing.

The Tools

At the moment, I have 3 loves-of-my-life (how do you pluralise such a word?):

1) my computer — where all my ideas are stored. A present from my parents, the best ever. My lovely MacBook Air, that is the size and lightness of an ipad, with a phenomenal, smooth keypad, from a company that is aligned to my own values: creativity, design, beauty, sensuality (yes, the mac has a sensual design) and agility. I can carry it everywhere and write anywhere, and it has another love-of-my-life in it: the software for writing…

2) my scrivener — the discovery that changed my writing life. It made it very easy to keep all my ideas organised. It is also perfect for compiling projects. When creating a book you can keep the ideas for the chapters organised and then go into each part and just fill it with the actual writing. Next you are able to move the parts around, keep notes, research items, etc. Finally it exports to many formats including most, if not all, e-book publishing formats. Love, love, love it!

3) my nespresso — the food, albeit a drink, for my thoughts. With which I create magical Moccas with melted chocolate that energise my ideas. Another gift from my parents and my sister.