Inspiration #2: Reading
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: the best writers read. What is the impulse of the person who says she wants to write a book, but when asked about books she likes says: “Oh, I don’t really like to read.” Now why would you ever want to create a thing you yourself choose not to engage with?
I have a few theories about this, but that’s not the purpose of my blog post today. Instead, it’s to marvel at what I’ve been reading lately, which is this:
I’ve read Dillard before, but never what’s arguably her most famous book. I was struck by this passage, which says so much (in my opinion) about the artistic process: “When we lose our innocence–when we start to feel the weight of the atmosphere and learn that there’s death in the pot–we take leave of our senses. Only children can hear the song of the male house mouse. Only children keep their eyes open. The only thing they have got is sense.”
As an artist of any kind, I do believe some willful innocence is in order. If you stop using the senses, you stop noticing, and it makes the creative process, the threading that is an essential piece of it, difficult to do. Reading is an important part of this threading process. Sometimes what we’re looking for in our work can be presented to us in the work of someone else. Countless times I have flailed around at my desk only to open a book and find the answer there within five minutes. But you need to be open and receptive, otherwise it’s nothing but contrivance.