Don't Lift the Lid

At some point over the summer I came to the conclusion that blogging about my personal writing process wasn't really all that interesting to people. I don't mean the cool things about writing—the source of inspiration, the origin of characters, et cetera—I mean the nuts and bolts of my current project. This would be entirely different if I were a famous author like, say Rowling or Gaiman, but let's face it. Until one reaches that level of popularity in this celebrity driven world, nobody really cares. One still has to prove one's writing as interesting enough to attract the curiosity of readers who ask, "What made her write that?" and "I want to do that. What's her secret?" I have a long way to go.

Every writer I know wants to be taken seriously, to be fascinating and to draw readers to their blog. We write to be understood, after all, and it's completely natural that we should want our blog to be the vestibule to our house of creativity. The problem is, I can sometimes get so focused on decorating my front steps that I neglect my parlor. Pretty welcome mat, dark and untidy  living room.

Many years ago, in 1971, when I was a professional Hollywood musician performing in concerts and television, I came up with a great idea for an album. It was a new idea at the time, one that Linda Rondstadt's people came up with a few years later: an album made up entirely of covers from the late Fifties and early Sixties. There was nothing like that out there yet; people were still creating new stuff and no one was looking backward at any kind of glory days. There were no glory days, they were still being made. I went to my manager and began to tell him about it.

"I've had a a great idea! I want to make an album of nothing but old songs from—"
"Don't tell me about it, just do it."
"Show me."

At the time, this came across as rude non-interest (maybe it was), and it shook me up a bit. Being of a sensitive, self-conscious disposition in those early years, I took it to mean that it was a bad idea, so I dropped it. Enter Rondstadt with Tracks Of My Tears (1975), That'll Be The Day (1976), Ooh, Baby Baby and Just One Look (1978), and string of other Oldies. I missed out on a great opportunity because what I really wanted was his validation for my idea and his praise for having come up with it in the first place. Instant gratification. Instead, I should have given him a proposal complete with budget, desired musicians and suggested cover art. But it was a different world back then. The record industry wasn't yet the corporate monster it is now. We had managers, not lawyers and accountants. And I was just a baby with no one to teach me the ropes.

I've since learned that people don't care about your ideas, really. I mean, friends may show a lukewarm tolerance for how much you go on about your book and other writers my seem interested, but until you have something to show, meh. They don't care that you've come up with the most romantic hero ever dreamed, or the most fascinating detective with the most absurd quirks. They want you to show them, not tell them. If the "show, don't tell" rule is true in the actual writing, it's certainly true in all other aspects of the craft.

But there's something in it for us, too. Our ideas, schemes, and the intricacies of creation are energy that's swirling around inside us. If we dissipate that energy—like lifting the lid on a pot of steaming rice—the real substance lessens. It loses something. that steam needs to be kept contained if we want to come up with a really tasty dish. In western paganism this is known as "building the magik" and that conical hat image is merely a symbol of how energy is built and stored and then, when it's reached its maximum power, is finally directed up the cone to a pressurized release through a tiny little hole, into the universe. That's much more powerful than being bareheaded and blasting off willy-nilly at the very first sign of steam. We must resist the need for a little appreciation if we want the applause of many. As I've said for many years, "I'm not settling for Hamburger Helper when I know there's a prime rib waiting."

So, unless I have something important to report to you about my latest book project, I won't be lifting the lid for anyone. No news is good news.

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

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