‘O Sir,’ said the niece, ‘pray these to be burnt with the rest; for should my uncle cured of this distemper of chivalry, he may possibly, by reading these books, take it into his head to turn shepherd, and wander through the woods and fields singing and playing on a pipe; and, what would be worse still, turn poet, which they say is an incurable and contagious disease.’ – Don Quixote
And so it is. Even then, in what is described as the first actual novel, the fact that what we deal with is not so much art, not so much dedication to the craft as compulsion. It can’t be helped. It can’t be stopped. It can only be allowed to feed until there is nothing left.
Those times when no impulse to write, to rhyme, to format life into bite-sized nuggets of phrases that explain everything and nothing at the same time is not so much writers “block” as a disease in remission, only to return again at some unknown point with such a vengeance that nothing else, NOTHING else, can be allowed to be in the way. All time stops until the cathartic expurgation is complete.
We have no idea where it comes from, nor do we care where it goes. All we know is that it is. For good or ill, we variously love, loath, miss and grasp for it. Some call it a blessing, some call it a curse – most of us just accept it as part of life, like a limb or the way you need to spread the toothpaste just so. It can no more be stopped than we can hold back the tides.
No one starts out doing this to become famous. No famous writer ever set out to be bigger than the last famous writer. No, everyone does this to exorcise the demon, to feed the contagion, to begin The Great Purge. Whatever is inside you that needs to be set free then let it out before it eats you from the inside like a disease. Whatever type of art is inside you, you need to allow that art to be what it will be and thereby, so you.
What’s inside you that needs to be set free?
‘Art for Art’s sake, money for God’s sake’ – 10CC