Sometimes I’m convinced the inspiration is gone for good. For months I try to write. I wake early and go to my study, hoping for the change of consciousness that sleep can sometimes bring. But the same knot still binds. I re-read the paragraph I wrote the day before, tear the page out of the typewriter, begin afresh on a new page. changing maybe one or two words and then rip that out as well. Pages with one line, four lines, half a paragraph strew the floor around my desk. Often by nine am. my working day is over-- I’ve reached the limit of my concentration and have nothing to show for it. I’m a tightly-coiled spring bolted down. I’m frustrated. And I’m convinced that it will never happen again, that what I’ve written in the past was a fluke.
Then suddenly I wake up one morning and it’s back. I am released. The bolts holding the spring have been loosened. I’m transported in every sense but bodily to the situation I’m describing, and the words are coming directly from this, matching and encapsulating it. It’s a union of feeling and intellect. When this happens I’m obsessed with my writing. Any distraction or change is a threat that could break the rhythm. I hope, work. sleep, go out, see friends, only to the extent that it rekindles me. All that matters is that I ride the wave until it breaks.
I don’t like believing in fate. I tell myself it’s an excuse for lazy self-indulgence. I try to routinize my writing, turn it into a nine-to-five job. I force myself to sit at the desk all day and pages do get splattered with type-script - but these are letters only strung into words, sentences. This writing has no integrity, no life - it’s the fundamental difference between a full array of bones and organs on the dissecting table and a human being.
While I wait for inspiration I think about it almost obsessively - I wonder what exactly it is, whether it can be induced and made to stay. I have no answers or formulas, but the wisdom of my twentieth-century rationality sees it as something integral to the writer, not heaven-sent -- more a question of natural mood-swings than channelling cosmic powers. And how to control mood-swings? I’ve experimented with changes of diet, drugs, acupuncture, the anti-depressants, yoga, jogging, going on holiday. But moods, with or without the inspiration, still sweep over me like wind through a corn field.
But there is one thing I do to prepare the ground for inspiration - I withdraw into myself and limit external stimulation to a bare minimum. Then from somewhere in this intense concentration and introspection words can begin to flow. It is this that provides my own rationale for the times of waiting - slots them into my job description of being a writer. Those apparently wasted weeks and months are in fact productive, although nothing appears on paper. Without them there would be no time or space to go inside - there would be no inspiration tapped.