I’m Just a Conduit.

I was thinking last night about how a lot of writers (and other artists) will say that they’re “just” a conduit for the work they do. Like a “higher power” has grabbed them and taken over their hands, forcing them to create, to shape, to mold the words or clay or paint into a completed work.

I don’t like that. I kind of hate it, actually. It’s such a cop out. It’s the same as “it’s the wine talking” or anything else. Like you are completely absolved of any responsibility just because of your state of mind.

It’s also really dishonest. While I do know (very well thanks to writing prompts) the feeling of being in the groove, having words flow from you and take shape without guiding them, or maybe only nudging them into the right direction on occasion, and ending up with something you never expected. But it’s pretty different from possession (I assume, I’ve never been possessed that I know of). But you won’t suddenly start writing brilliant poetry in a language you don’t know, or even in your own language about circumstances that you’ve never been exposed to…. it comes from YOU.

Even if the possession method produces brilliant results, those results need to be revised, edited, tweaked, honed, marketed, condensed, expanded, read by others and revised again. The creative muse may make a few appearances during this process, but in general- it’s a lot of work, a lot of heartache, a lot of “killing your darlings” hearing that it isn’t good enough, making it better, and ignoring the naysayers.

Maybe it’s easier to say “it just came out of me” than to admit “I thought those words in that order would work.” or “why yes, I did come up with the idea for a rape scene right there” or “yeah, I thought it was time for the kid to die.”

I think that it cheapens your work to blame it on someone or something else. It tries to hold up this veil of illusion that it’s easy and effortless to be a writer, a painter, a sculptor, or whatever, when it’s not. Yes, some people have a natural ability or eye or capacity that is higher than some other peoples. But you still have to learn a lot. You may have the perfect dress design in your head but if you never learn to use a sewing machine you will be severely stunted in your efforts to make it. If you think that a painter never edits their work, that it all flows effortlessly and lands exactly where they want it every time- then you should talk to some (honest) painters.

Anyway, all this to say- you work hard at whatever you do. There’s a difference between PRIDE and being proud and taking ownership of your achievements. There’s a difference between being humble and not taking yourself seriously.

This even applies to parenting. “It’s just instinct”, “you’ll know”, and all similar sentiments are 100% pure, unfiltered BS. You don’t know what you know until you learn it. Common knowledge isn’t common until you learn it. You can’t produce anything of quality without a fair amount of blood (even if it’s just the blood rushing to your face when someone is judging you), sweat, and tears along with practice, determination, and the sick sense of humor that lets you put your soul on display for the entertainment and scrutiny of others. Honor yourself by taking responsibility. You rock and you’ve earned at east that right.
And yes, I MIGHT have a fever and I MIGHT look back at this post and have to edit it to make it make sense. Because THAT is how writing works.


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