Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?

The HillsideI’ll state right up front that while I believe all art is a divine gift I do not believe in a literal Muse who is responsible for my (or your) art.

But sometimes, it certainly feels like what I create is coming, not from me but through me.

In those moments what arrives in my fingers is closer to the truths I feel than when I’m using my head, obviously and overtly making stuff up.

I once spent a week carefully crafting a complex 7-minute long Arabic trance instrumental. It’s all kinds of fun, and the Little One still loves to listen to it.

Most folks pay little or no attention to it. It has no real depth, no emotional tug.

On the other end of the spectrum is my song The Hillside which, once I realize what these three repeating chords meant, these dead simple chords anyone could play, the song flowed in minutes, all but one word which was supplied by Best Beloved.

Guess what is, hands down, my most popular song, the one everyone comments on, remembers, requests?

The Hillside:

How ’bout you? Does your best art come from you or through you, from somewhere else?

Tomorrow: the brain science explanation for what’s really going on here.

13 thoughts on “Does Your Writing Come From You or Through You?

  1. Great song Joel. Yes, my best writing comes through me from a deeper part of me that connects to the mystery, maybe it’s the Collective Unconscious or the Divine that dwells in all of us. I’m not always to make the connection on my end — too busy, too monkey-minded, too ego-invested — but I have faith that the connection is always open on the other end. And I know from experience that consistently showing up for my Product Time (aka writing time) gives me greater access.

  2. I’ve literally written thousands of words (pun intended) and I have NO IDEA where they came from. I really don’t think that when an author starts writing a novel, he/she knows every single word that will be typed, I don’t think it’s humanly possible to.

    Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I have a premise of what the novel will be like, a nebulous form of what it’s about..a skeleton outline..then I start typing away. Soon the dialogue starts taking shape…words start flowing…chapters are formed!

    It’s strange…it’s art…

    1. That’s the thing: some stuff, I know exactly where it comes from.

      It’s usually not very good.

      Usually, the good stuff happens when I get out of the way and stop overthinking it.

      But I know some of the good stuff comes from taking something mediocre and refining it.

  3. I like that Arabic song!

    I’m not able to listen to The Hillside, though, because my computer is being mean lately and doesn’t let me hear music from any kind of online music player, and I have no idea what’s wrong.

  4. I like your song. I do have this feeling on occasions: is the words coming from me or through me? I think to some extent, all writers *use* what they’ve read unconsciously. For example, when I’m writing my first novel, I notice that some of the sentences I used bear strong resemblance to certain sentences I’ve read from novels I like. It’s just natural for our brains to use the stuffs it’d learnt.

    This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though (nor necessarily good, either). Sometimes it certainly helps to learn from other writers. It can give you some insight about how you yourself is doing. ;)

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