The Stuff of Inspiration

This morning, I woke up slowly. By morning, I mean afternoon – about 12:30pm, actually, because I was up until about 3:30am with my best friend at the University Hospital. He was not there for any sort of personal harm or extreme emergency, but I stayed there with him so that he wouldn’t have to find a ride home on his own. But, this morning I came across an inspiring quote in the book that I decided to start reading. I’m not sure why I decided to start reading this book today, or why I didn’t start it after buying it almost two weeks ago. The book is God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert, the fourth in the epic Dune saga.

I sat on the couch in my apartment’s living room. No lights were on, the blinds were still drawn, and an eerie quiet floated around me. As I flipped open the front cover of the book, my Mr. Coffee K-cup brewer made its usual violent brewing noise from behind me in the kitchen. I got up with a small measure of annoyance, went and added some sugar to the otherwise black liquid, and sat back down with it steaming beside me. My phone also sat next to me; it beeped from a text message and I hit the switch to turn it on silent so that I could read my darn book.

Frank Herbert included a letter to his readers on the first two pages of this installment of the saga. I suppose it also could’ve been included by the publisher or by those who designed this particular printing. In any case, the letter describes his experience writing Dune and the slowly building success that followed its publication and that of the next two novels. The most wonderful quote from this letter, after he discusses the six years of research preceding his writing and the intense planning and interweaving of plot layers that went into it (seriously, read the first book if you can – it’s marvelously complex and engaging), follows:

“Looking back on it, I realize I did the right thing instinctively. You don’t write for the success. That takes part of your attention away from the writing. If you’re really doing it, that’s all you’re doing: writing.”

This quote represents the core of my motivation for writing. I aim to write a few different things oon enough once school winds down and comes to a close this year. My summer is going to be filled with researching and writing, as I aim to produce a few short stories and potentially begin working on a longer novella or novel. These are quite ambitious goals, but when I read quotes like Herbert’s, I am inspired to work toward them.

I think that many of us young writers, and many young artists in general (I’m in the music school, I see this all of the time), become too preoccupied with achieving success. We must focus on the craft itself. We must create what is within our hearts. We must create what is true and beautiful. We cannot worry about whether wide audiences believe our works to be true and beautiful. If our works are created with passion and sincerity, then there will always be people that enjoy what we create. That, I think, is the nature of art and it is certainly the nature of writing.

Another quote sprang to mind just now that I will leave you with. It is from a short interview in The Rolling Stone with Maynard James Keenan, the lead vocalist of the progressive rock band Tool:

“Life is too short not to create something with every breath we draw.”

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