Wetting the Pen with Robert Genn

Most mornings I get up at 4:20 AM. By 4:30, I’m doing Morning Pages (3 pages, college-ruled, long hand). Why so early? Because the Missus and I walk from 5-6 AM; from that point on, the day’s a roller coaster. The last thing done each evening, before either a crossword puzzle or leisure reading, is writing in a journal. The latter I’ve done throughout my life — but since 1992 without missing a night. The former, Morning Pages, even the walking, is fruit born from reading Julia Cameron’s works. (Yes, I know there’s some New Agey stuff in her works — but, hey, I wasn’t born yesterday; been there was that.)

It’s funny how someone, or someone’s work, can change your life.

I subscribe to two Internet email services: 1) The Writer’s Almanac; 2) Robert Genn’s Twice Weekly Letters. I recommend both.

Today, I received a belated Christmas present from the Missus: The Letters by Robert Genn — a big book containing all the twice-weekly letters over the past 10 years. That will, I suppose, be my nightly reading for a while.

Before publication, Mr Genn solicited guest Forwards for the project. My submission did not make publication. But, FWIW, here it is:

Else they fruitlessly struggle against the current, every artist eventually understands: the muse only works when you’re working. Waiting for inspiration, like a slow day fishing, can equal just plain waiting. Robert Genn’s The Twice-Weekly Letters are a total waste of time. That is, when you’re not working. And who’s not working these days? I mean, thanks to the immediate media of the omnipresent Internet, we can surf and work at the same time, right? Wrong. Ask any real surfer and you’ll find that, when the waves aren’t there, you can be merely all wet.

When you are working, The Twice-Weekly Letters are a total wave of time. Not that the confines of time are abrogated, rather they make for the creative exercise of muse surfing. That’s the sensation I get whilst reading these wonderful gems of inspiration. Sometimes I’m on the shore, witnessing the fast swerve and swagger of the surfer, when stationary admiration is enough to wash me elsewhere, to that fruitful place. Other times, I am gliding on the board, fast and furious, when even a cursory scan of The Twice-Weekly Letters is enough to slow me toward a rendezvous with the patiently waiting shoreline muse.

Then there are those times when, hater that I am, I get jealous reading of Mr Genn’s fabulous travels. But, no fault be his, he didn’t steal my muse, for she is oft times stirred even amid envy. (Incidentally, Mr Genn seldom refrains from mentioning water: the sea, the lake, the tear, the fog, or the steady drizzle rain.)

There’s another truism that artists come to know: The art is in the craft, the craft is in the art. For writers this is watered down to: “A writer writes.” You write when you don’t want to write. You write when you should be doing something else. You write when you could be spending time with loved ones. A writer writes because he has to! But muse-less creativity may often be only an addiction in drag; it, too, can leave one fruitless and all wet.

Saint Augustine, obviously working toward a specific end, wrote words nonetheless applicable to all who struggle toward the bountiful waters of beauty: “So then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress. This progress must be in virtue; for there are some … whose only progress is in vice. If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith, and right living. Sing then – but keep going.”

The Twice-Weekly Letters are like songs to the soul, waves for the ears, and music to the muse. Though they’ve appeared like clockwork, I’m always pleasantly surprised when that grand swell toward shore comes in twice weekly. Now that they’re all presented here together, in this wonderful reservoir, come with me my love: Let us sing – “Surf’s up!” – and keep going.

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