Finding Your Muse: How Being Around Other Creative People Helps You Create

Last night I attended my first Third Thursday free event held by the Texas Writers League.  I’d heard of the League, but it took me hearing their director Michael Nolin speak and also met him at another event, the One Page Salon, to get me to a TWL event.  After the panel, I went to a book release party for OPS host Owen Egerton, who has helped inspired me to keep on writing and to call myself a writer.  At the latter event I met a couple involved in the Austin film industry, and had a good long conversation with them about their art.  And then a fellow blogger made a really heartfelt comment about a recent post of mine.  A day later I still find myself energized by this synchronicity.  So I gotta write about it.

Tell Your Story, Do Your Art, Ride Your Bike

After the shock and disappointment of the 2016 US election (though I was not surprised at the outcome), I recall a fellow One Pager say something from the stage.  David Perkins said that it was even more important to tell your story, and do your art.  While the vast majority of us on WordPress will not achieve political office, fame or riches, Dave’s point was that we all have a voice that’s no one else’s, and it’s our right and our duty to use it.  To Dave, and many artists, simply creating something is a radical act, and I would agree.

We may not change the world with it, but then again we might.  We don’t know who we’re going to inspire, and keeping our stories to ourselves is in a way, selfish, he said.  Creative voices throughout time and even now continue to be silenced by oppressive regimes (even the elected ones).  Think of Jamal Kashoggi, the journalist killed in Turkey for telling the truth about the Saudi Arabian regime as just one example.  So continuing to produce art, music, writing and more is our duty.

Writing, Like Biking, Is a Solo Gig, Except It’s Not

I thought of this as I listened to four published authors talk about their process.  Titled “How to Start or Restart a Writing Project,” the panel really went into the different thought processes, methods and more that the authors used to create.   Katherine Catmull, Lindsey Lane, Rene Perea II and Melanie Westerberg write in a variety of genres from plays to prose, poetry and children’s books, young adult and Latino fiction.  They spoke about a variety of approaches that helped them write or begin writing again.  Here are just a few:

  • meditation
  • being in nature
  • listening to music
  • reading other writers
  • figuring out the narrative and character “voices”
  • showing, not telling
  • focusing on smells, sounds, tastes and textures of scenes
  • peer review and critique groups

twl jan 2019 third thursAlot of people have the image of a writer as being locked in a barren room with a typewriter, bottle of wine and discarded drafts strewn on the floor.  Or cranking away on a laptop at a coffee shop.  And yes, it’s a solitary and at times lonely pursuit.  So it was interesting for me to get out from behind my laptop and my desk to be in a room with maybe 75 other aspiring writers to hear this from people who have been published.  And just like my bicycling, it takes a village.

A board member I didn’t know and a staffperson I recognized both chatted with me and made me feel welcome.  After, I thanked Michael who kind of knew me but at first wasn’t quite sure with my winter facial hair.  To me, the whole experience was very encouraging.  And that’s the point of the League – to be supportive of writers.  So I hope to make it a habit and return.  I can’t repeat the entire panel of course, but for those interested in hearing this program once it becomes available, it will be here on Soundcloud.

Owen Egerton’s Book Release Party

I’ve written about Owen Egerton on several occasions, and have had the privelege of being at least in the outer rings of his vast orbit for a while now.  I think I first saw him at Comedy Sportz, an improv place that’s long gone.  And then it was as a fan of the Mister Sinus Theater at the old location of the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.  They still make fun of live movies, and he’s an occasional contributor (after they were sued and had to change the name to Master Pancake.)  More recently, I began attending his monthly reading series, the One Page Salon.  He and OPS have been a HUGE help to encourage me to keep working with this blog and my book.  So the least I could do was attend this event, a release of his novel HOLLOW in paperback.  Here’s the Soft Skull Press author bio:

OWEN EGERTON is the author of two novels, The Book of Harold and Everyone Says That at the End of the World, and one story collection, How Best to Avoid Dying, all published to positive reviews. He’s also the writer/director of the psychological horror film Follow. As a screenwriter Egerton has written for Fox, Disney, and Warner Brothers. His pieces have appeared in the Huffington Post and Salon. He cowrote the creative writing guide This Word Now with his wife, poet Jodi Egerton. Egerton also hosts public radio’s The Write Up. He lives in Austin, Texas.

hollow book release 01719I arrived late to his last reading, but was fortunate to hear what I did.  I was both amazed and not surprised.  It’s not the dude’s first rodeo.  It was a cascade of carefully chosen but effortlessly delivered words, read quickly, describing the inner state of mind of the protagonist and his outer world of Austin, Texas around him.

As the character went to hide behind a dumpster, I was there with him, feeling the palpitations of his quick breathing, smelling the rot, anxious about who was chasing him.  The adjective (Jack) “Kerouac-esque” came to mind.  It was really cool and made me want to buy and read the book right there.  (First, I need a job.  But I will read it.)  You can learn more, read endorsements, and go buy his book — which is, by the way, one of National Public Radio’s Best Reads of 2017at this link.

Meeting Elle and Joe – The Dynamic Duo

As Owen says, the best part of these events is meeting other people and cross-fertilizing ideas with them.  I don’t know what it is about creativity, but it’s inspiring to see other people do their thing.  Just like with my biking, I didn’t think I could or would write as much as I have.  I didn’t go through a training class, I just started doing it.  Sure, few people see it, and maybe it’s not all the highest caliber stuff that will get me agents, publishers and sponsors beating down my door (yet).

As the signing wound down, I was shyly lurking around just trying to thank Owen and congratulate him before I took off.  He was talking to a very striking woman and a hairy taller dude.  Eventually I was noticed and absorbed into the circle for a moment.  Owen continues talking to the woman and her partner started talking to me.   He introduced himself as Average Joe, based on having an Italian last name that I didn’t get the spelling of.  We went on to talk for what felt like a good 20 minutes.  He’s an artist, does set design and production, continuity, and all kinds of other tasks, including appear in some of the movies.  He got into movies by accident, doing metal sculpture. The work had taken him around the world and he described some great adventures.

One place we’d both been to and loved was Glacier National Park; I told him about biking from there to Canada (sounds more impressive than it was, but still, I did it, and back).  He was very enthusiastic, though that may have been enhanced by a few adult beverages.  “I’m a hugger!” he said a few times, and then proceeded to demonstrate.  He was also supportive of my biking and writing, and even asked for my email so we might connect.  I couldn’t really believe it and even if we don’t connect, I still felt like I was in the right place, that I was among my tribe.  Something that doesn’t happen very often.

I told Joe still have a bunch of GoPro videos I never did anything with, and he gave me tips on that, and even suggested he might be able to help me do something with them.  While he was talking, I just kept thinking to myself, “Man, this guy has followed his dreams and has accomplished alot!  How can I do that?”  Later I realized that it wasn’t so much what he said as it was his passion for what he does that was infectious.  He tapped into the muse, has been riding that wave for a while, and he’s been successful at it.

meeting elle and joe 011719

Eventually Owen and Elle Lamont joined in our conversation.  At first I was taken by her smile and beauty — she has bright, wise eyes, a glowing smile and the bodily presence of a model, something she also has done.  But slowly it came out that not only has she been in over 40 films, one of those that’s about to come out is a pretty big one.  Produced by James Cameron (Avatar) and directed by Robert Rodriguez (From Dusk Til Dawn), it’s called ALITA:  BATTLE ANGEL.  Elle plays the four-armed character called Screwhead.

I’ve seen the previews and while she’s not the star, it’s going to be a groundbreaking movie for it’s effects.  It’s based on a Japanese manga so the title character is animated, but looks very realistic.  Elle was there because she is also in an upcoming movie made by Owen called Mercy Black.  He called it “that other movie she’s in this year.”  Some of her other roles include a family film, shorts. horror and independent films.  Her Instagram says “Human, Woman, Actor, Producer, Model, Traveler, Artist and Weirdo.”

The cool thing about them both was that they were super friendly.  That they would talk to a non-famous person at all says alot.  They have worked with big stars, been on red carpets at film festivals from Austin to Hollywood to Cannes in France, probably won awards, but were not pretentious at all.  That’s another characteristic of creative people, at least the ones I’ve met, even some very famous ones.  And actually, I’ve met a few:  Bruce Springsteen, Tate Donovan, Leonard Maltin, Dick Cavett, Dave Brubeck, Bonnie Raitt.  They’re just people but they don’t lay claim to having some magic or secret knowledge.  They have worked hard and long at their crafts and in the process found success in telling their stories.  As we were leaving the same way I saw them again and sheepishly asked for a picture.  They didn’t mind at all.  Maybe I’ll run into them again.

Two More Examples of Inspiration

Very cool stuff, this inspiration / creativity / muse.  It belongs to everyone and anyone can tap into it, share it or absorb it by osmosis.  A fellow blogger, Jo Wiggins of Slippers and Lycra wrote this lovely comment about my post A Dude Abikes in the News!: One Year Later…

I LOVE this post. It actually made me feel a little (lot) emotional. I empathised with you on just about every point. Aside from your 15 minutes of fame,(which I’ve not had but think I might quite like) I felt we were very similar in many ways but on opposite sides of the globe! And, I’m happy to say, you have inspired me to continue as I am, writing blogs, working on my book, raising money for breast cancer, encouraging ‘older’ people to cycle and maybe a triathlon and not to let myself be kicked off the stool of positivity by the boot of lazy negativity. Yeah.. thank you Dude.
That’s very cool!  I wrote her back and thanked her for her comment.  Sometimes some outside validation is really helpful, if you are fortunate enough to have your message resonate with someone else.  Although she’s in England, I feel we connected, and that’s not an uncommon thing in the internet age.  But still rare for me, so I’m grateful to her.
Finally, today a friend was by helping me go through boxes to get ready for my upcoming move. I have to find a new place but haven’t yet, which is nerve wracking with no steady income, especially in Austin which has really high rent.  (Don’t come live here — traffic and the heat are horrible.)  So downsizing is important.  We did a little bartering and then Dave Brubeck’s jazz classic Take Five came on my Pandora feed.  I mentioned I got to perform with him.
The friend said he wanted me to be practicing my instrument to put down tracks for him since he’s teaching himself synthesizer.  So I got out my horn and began to play along with the song.  I haven’t played in years but did have it checked after last year’s South by Southwest.  And while my tone was bad and I missed alot of notes, I actually got the key down very quickly and with not too much practice could get the usic under my fingers.  So that little experiment has reminded me that art is not created in a vacuum, and sometimes I get by with a little help from my friends.
Thanks to everyone mentioned in this post for inspiring me.  Perhaps a bit too much because the word count is far too high for an average blog.  I hope you’ve found some inspiration from this and will go get out there and stink it up with the rest of them!  You never know what may come of it.  But if you don’t even try, definitely nothing will happen.

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