The first Wednesday of the month, writer Jeff Bowles muses on life, creativity, and our collective destinies as makers of cool stuff. You’re a writer, but have you ever thought about how or why? Here are some words to live by.
Over the holidays, I watched the new Beatles documentary released on Disney+, The Beatles: Get Back. I’m a huge fan of the group and always have been. I realize there are non-Beatles fans out there, but I have to admit, I’ve always been mystified by their lack of enthusiasm. To me and millions of other Beatlemanics, the band is a historical landmark, having written and recorded music that changed pop culture for generations to come.
This blog entry is about inspiration and legacy. I liked to write stories as a kid, but really, I wanted to be a rock star. This would’ve been in the mid-90s. At the time, many potential role models existed for me and every other outcast kid who picked up a guitar. I wasn’t into Nirvana or Linkin Park at that age, didn’t appreciate Red Hot Chili Peppers or Green Day. I loved The Beatles, plus lots of other groups from the 60s and 70s. Never mind that my older brother and mom began spoon-feeding me this stuff at a very early age, or the fact that I looked up to my brother and enjoyed liking the things he thought were cool. The Beatles were special, supernatural even. I believed that then and I believe it now.
But the truth is, I haven’t been feeling particularly inspired lately. Not even Christmas cheered me up. In fact, it only made me feel worse. This Get Back documentary, it’s exhaustive (and a little exhausting). Only a mega Beatles nerd could’ve pieced it together. Peter Jackson (director and co-writer of The Lord of the Rings trilogy) happens to have been that nerd. The film is almost eight hours in length, split over three episodes, focusing on just one month or so in the lives of the famous foursome.
The great thing about it is that we really get to see The Beatles’ creative process up close. Lots of labor and missteps, mistakes and dead ends. Critics have said this proves they weren’t as legendary as fans have always claimed. To me, it makes them more human, which is a comfort, because it proves anyone anywhere can muster enough talent and drive to produce work of honest significance.
Inspiration is great, but it’s not nearly as effective as perspiration. When I was learning to play and sing and write songs, John Lennon was my idol. I wanted to be him, and man did all the other kids in school think I was strange. I remember looking up at the stars one night when I was ten years old and whispering to the heavens,
“I want to be the greatest rock star ever.”
Or something to that effect. As it turned out, I lived a small (very small) portion of that dream. Played music with people all the way through my teens and early twenties. Lots of tiny coffee house gigs, open mic nights, bars, private celebrations. When I was twenty-one, I met the woman I would one day marry, and eventually I found I wanted different things out of life. Writing short stories and novels, the pursuit of some kind of career in this field, it replaced my desire to make music almost entirely. I grew dedicated to the craft and learned a hell of a lot. For the most part, writing has made me happy. I’m glad I took the years necessary to get good at it.
But I wouldn’t have found that dedication, that fire in my heart, if I weren’t already intimately familiar with it. There is an electric feeling that occurs inside the body and mind of a musician caught in the flow of her or his own creativity. The Beatles clearly knew that feeling well. It’s potent and wonderful, thrilling and powerful.
I came to learn that writing is a slower burn. Tons of work up front, and then maybe (maybe) a bit of adulation months or years later. But it still holds moments of intense creative gratification. No matter who you are, how popular or famous or legendary, this process, this mental birthing experience, it can be difficult and frustrating. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr were all wonderful musicians. They had nothing to prove to anyone, yet they still worked themselves to the bone to make stuff that simply had no equal.
So here’s my question for all of you: how dedicated are you to what you love? What thrills you and gets you excited for writing or anything else in life? Maybe it’s a bit unfashionable to admit that music recorded some sixty years ago makes me feel ready to take on the world, but it does. Especially when I get to see it up close, visceral, all the creative battles, coming to the logical and favorable conclusion of work that stands the test of time.
Next time you’re feeling down in the dumps and not at all creative, head back to the source—your personal wellspring of inspiration—and see if it won’t refill your cup a little. Pick up a guitar, or a pencil or paintbrush or a media powerhouse of a computer, or maybe just watch a good film about one of your favorite things on earth. All hail the makers of cool stuff. Be they Beatles or bestsellers or nobodies in particular.
Peace and love to you this new year. May it bring you everything you need, and maybe a few of the things you want, too. Until next time.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!
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