Monday, February 7, 2011

The Will of the Mind

I've been thinking a lot about blank pages lately. How it feels as a writer to open a new document and stare at the vast expanse of whiteness, expecting something to flow. Some days it comes, some days it doesn't. On the days it doesn't it seems easier and more practical to just throw in the towel and go back to bed. But there are pesky things like deadlines to keep, and editors waiting for my work to cross their desks. I have a living to make, and this is how I've chosen to make it. So I stare at the blinking cursor and wait.

When I was in high school marching band, our band director often used the following quote to inspire us to do just one more run through of our drill: "Commitment is the will of the mind to finish what the heart has started, long after the mood in which the promise was made has faded."

Back then, I thought he was getting it all wrong--I was convinced that the heart itself was what had to carry us through. Because that was how excited and passionate I felt about marching band, the friends I'd made, the camaraderie and the music. As an adult and a novelist, I now recognize what he meant, how the heart so easily causes that first leap, the first creative burst of "Yes, I have this story to tell," without regard for all the effort, all the hard work that lies ahead.

Whether it is keeping the commitment of blogging every week, or facing the challenge of finishing a novel manuscript, sometimes in my creative life I find myself staring at a blank page and having little, if anything, to say. It is nothing but the will of the mind that keeps me sitting at the keyboard. What is amazing, though, is that when I find that will, somehow the heart kicks in.

We are constantly creating, painting our lives, writing our stories day in and day out. It is helpful to think about that, to realize that I am not trying to make something out of nothing, but that I draw from my life, my improvised, creative existence to do my creative work. Maybe my teenage self wasn't all wrong: The will of the mind is required, but it is the will of the heart that gets the job done in the end.

What leaps is your heart driving you to take? Do you have the will to follow it through?

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