Not Knowing Yet

10_7Creative people are comfortable with not knowing yet.

—an unknown jazz musician

How that quote resonates with me! And challenges me at the same time. Because the truth is that “comfortable” doesn’t quite fit. I understand that part of creation is accepting those times when I don’t know yet, can’t know, have to wait . . . and wait . . . and wait. But it would be a gross exaggeration to say I am “comfortable” with such a state of affairs.

Recently I have set other work aside—yes, even Blue-Eyed Wolf, the nearly mythical YA novel you’ve been hearing about for so long if you’ve been following this blog—to work on a memoir in verse. I made this choice because I have a lot of books out there, nearly 100 now, and I can’t escape the fact that, even though I expect to keep publishing, the world is hardly panting for more books from Marion Dane Bauer. Nor is it likely that my heritage will be changed substantially by one or two or thirty more. Once I acknowledged that fact, it seemed to make sense to work on something I need for myself whether the world is calling for it or not.

Thus I set everything else aside, except projects already sold that needed further attention, and turned full into the piece I’d previously been playing with in the cracks of time. I have nearly two dozen of the verses written for the memoir but, as I’ve discussed here before, I don’t yet have a frame, a meaningful container to present them in.

As the weeks pass I read memoir after memoir. But I am unable to find anything like what I want to do, unable even to find a tone that fits for me, and unable to continue with my work on it. Except for this blog, my days begin to feel pretty thin.

I have never done well in that empty time between finishing one major project and starting on another. In fact, I used to decide, every time I found myself in such a chasm, that I had run out of fuel . . . forever. Some years ago when I announced to my partner that I would clearly never write anything again, and meant it, she said, patiently, “Yes. That’s what you said after you finished your last book.”

I was stunned. Had I ever felt this way before? Really?

So now, thanks to someone else’s memory—less muddled than my own—I have the perspective to know I’ve stood in this vacuum before, more than once, in fact. And I know, too, that, always before, I’ve come out on the other side . . . eventually.

Which makes waiting for inspiration much less dramatic, but not a bit easier.

I don’t mind hard work. I don’t even mind mucking about when I’m not sure what I’m doing. But I’m far, far from being “comfortable” with not knowing where I want to go.

And yet a jazz musician, any jazz musician is probably a good model for me to hold in my mind these days. I am not musically enough inclined to have any real concept of what happens when the rest of the band falls away and the musician on display begins a riff, but I presume that kind of creative playing must involve a profound letting go. A kind of falling into the music. An unquestioning faith in the music and the instrument that makes the music and in the maker of music himself.

A faith that should come easily enough to someone who has published nearly 100 books.

But here I am, not knowing yet, and maybe I’m not a “creative” person, after all, but I’m not the least bit comfortable.

In fact my discomfort keeps whispering in my ear . . . “You’ll never write again, you know!”

Now let’s see . . . what else can I write while I’m complaining?

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