The fine art of riding the torrent

Why do the young (supposedly) write the most amazing songs? The Beatles were in their 20s. I know, not so, not so — some of the great works were by mature authors — but maybe foolish youth doesn’t know better and unleashes work that hasn’t been tinkered and edited to death.

After that first burst of success, they begin to think, “I am a recognized whatever now, and so I am obligated to produce works of genius,” as opposed to “I am flowing with the universe and I must share what I experience, I am the conduit not the genius creator, come see and hear what I see and hear.”

As soon as the acclaim comes, the pressure is on. “What will you do next,” as if that wasn’t enough, as if “you” did it. And you start to seek out the inspiration instead of watching and listening.

Yes, there is a flow to be tapped and there is a Great Architect willing to share the vision, and we are creators made in the Architect’s image and so the act of creating is built into our genes, but in the trying too hard to craft we can lose sight of the spark — just as these sentences are crawling more slowly out of the pen than they were a couple of minutes ago.

Sometimes, when I get out of my own way, here come the words in a torrent, and as soon as I become conscious of the flow — “Look, mom, it’s a torrent!” — it starts to slip away.

Oh, take me away, mad genius, let me swim and swim in the torrent sharing what I see and hear bursting from my chest like some generous alien critter — not a parasite like in the movie that uses my body and casts it aside, rather a creation maker who fills my heart and makes it give — an I-don’t-know-what that sends my hands flying across the page, and I look back and don’t quite remember where it all came from.

Imagine an aging Paul McCartney who never wrote his little masterpiece, sitting down to write and coming up with, “Yesterday all my troubles seemed so far away,” and looking at the phrase and thinking, “No, no, no, that’s kind of bogus, I can do better than that …”

It’s a trick, letting the universe talk and not judging what you’ve got until later, and maybe the young are better at it because they haven’t learned the unfine art of second guesses. Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think,” and I think he was on to something. In thinking comes editing, and from editing comes a trickle instead of a torrent, with only what seems best in the moment coming out.

Somewhere in the torrent will be the real gem, and you must let the river run through you, the wild river untamed and roaring along with all of it, not just the trickle, and you come back and say “Some force possessed me,” not “Oh look, see what I contrived to create this morning.”

And that is what comes of not thinking.

Leave a Reply