Notes From Purgatory: The Story And The Teller


A few years ago, a friend called me saying her creative well had run dry, that perhaps her muse had drowned itself somewhere in her stream of consciousness.  My friend was concerned because she wanted so desperately to write something (in her case, poetry), but the spark of inspiration just wasn’t there.  Writer’s block had come down hard on her, an inconvenience I knew all too well.

To jumpstart her creativity, I had her close her eyes and describe a room.  She chose a small kitchen and, when I asked for a tour, she included a stove, cabinets, and a dining table.  I asked her to show me another room.  She told me about the hallway leading to a living room with hardwood floors and shelves packed with book (go figure).  I could hear the focus in her voice as she imagined this quaint little house and it thrilled me because I was sharing in her creative experience.

Suddenly she told me about the raindrops she could hear on the roof.  I asked her to take me outside, which she did with a tone of wonder.

She described the feel of the drops, how they were light and cool.  She told me about the clean smell of foliage and flowers.  She even told me about the pitter-patter of the drops on the sidewalk around us.

“What’s that on the sidewalk?” I asked after a moment.  She asked me what I’d meant and I asked, “that thing there on the sidewalk… do you see it?”

“A blueberry,” she replied without a beat.  The answer was strange, but satisfying because it was a centerpiece to this mental tour of ours.  I didn’t ask her why a blueberry was on the sidewalk in the rain or the Freudian implications of such imagery, I merely let her take in this world she’d created from nothing.

“You created this whole place,” I told her.  “And you said inspiration had left you.”

She was silent for a moment before laughing and thanking me.  She said that, although she hadn’t found an idea for a new poem, she was overjoyed in having been reminded how powerful creativity could be.  I was happy that she had found light at the end of the tunnel.  Sometimes that’s all we need to see, just a crack in the roadblock to remind us that we don’t work in vain and that we have the power to create and renew.

Although I prodded my friend on, she was the creator of her own little world.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of how powerful our imaginations are, a fact we all took for granted when we were little kids running through the streets with our pretend swords and make-believe steads.  Imagination is a rejection of the malaise of adulthood, a means to escape the everyday blandness of work-eat-sleep.  We need to remember this as creators of stories.

So, we just need to step back and let the story tell itself.  We are lightning rods of creative energy, translators of the internal ether.  But in the grind of creation, we often forget to just sit back and imagine.  The secret heart inside each of us is always speaking of the fantastic and bizarre, but we don’t often shut ourselves down long enough to let the voice be heard through the chaos of “everyday.”  But if we pause and listen, we can pick up the story asking to be told.  We can save our muses from the torrent of thoughts inside and the maelstrom of the mundane within.

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