Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Ramble on the Creative Process and an Old Memory of New Orleans

This is not one of those particularly poetic posts of mine. This is just me thinking out loud on my iPad, remembering a bit of yesterday.

One morning  I was drinking coffee on my patio, drinking coffee and listening to the birds sing and  remembering a conversation I once had with a man. We would have the most wonderful talks and other things but that morning we were talking. We were talking about writing.

I was bemoaning the fact that I never finish anything, write in 1000 word increments and move on to something else which brought up William Burroughs and *Naked Lunch.* Boys always bring up *Naked Lunch* and I always have to blushingly admit I've never quite finished that book...yet. 

Being an English Professor and writer, himself (yes, another one), he then told me how young writers come to him asking for advice and how he, with a note of frustration in his voice, told me he would tell them to stop talking and write and beg them not to disclose the plot. Please.

This is something close to my heart because I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was in my twenties and thirties I was bursting with ideas and apparently unable to keep them to myself. Because you see once you've told the story, whether orally or in written form, it's complete, finished and your creative mind moves on to something new. 

I moved to New Orleans in 1990. My first visit took my breath away. My first morning I was sitting in a little outside cafe near The French Market. A three piece jazz group was playing and singing. I couldn't keep my eyes off the stand up bass player. I was sitting alone, drinking a daiquiri and had my journal open in front me. I remember writing that it felt as though the musicians in the French Quarter breathed their music. It was part of their soul, their essence. They didn't play, they just breathed and the air was filled with magic and sound.

I had an Olympus OM-1 SLR at the time. I came up with the most brilliant idea for a creative project. I would go from bar to bar photographing the musicians breathing their music, not the famous musicians and not posed shots. I wanted to capture their faces and their instruments and their dance of life that was so uniquely their own. I would take these images and create a coffee table book filled with photos and on opposite pages my thoughts and maybe a quote here and there, a poem occasionally but I wanted the book to be about music. I wanted to take something so very magical to the ears and turn it into a feast for the eyes. I wanted to capture images that told a story of sound and lives.

I told practically everyone I met this brilliant idea of mine and as I became a French Quarter regular quite quickly, I told a lot of people. And that is as far as the project went. It became either an unfinished dream or one that played itself out in my head and completed itself in my imagination. It doesn't matter because that's as far as that project went.

Today, or yesterday now, was Mardi Gras. I was thinking about that conversation and that memory from decades ago. I've been to New Orleans a number of times since I lived there, both pre and post Katrina. In fact, my son lives there now.

Tonight I realised the saddest thing, the greatest loss, of not completing that project is knowing that time and place doesn't exist anymore, will never exist again. And who I was then, the artist without a medium, someone in a French Quarter bar once called me, will never exist again. I had an opportunity to capture some fleetingly magical, create something rare and significant and share it and I didn't do it. I let it slip through my fingers... like so many things.

And from there I'm reminded of Bowie again and his final messages to us...

You know that one outrageously creative thing you've always wanted to do, that one sublime thing, that one thing? Do it now. Don't talk about it. Do it.

"Make the best of every moment. We’re not evolving. We’re not going anywhere." 
— David Bowie

"We all die. The goal isn't to live forever, the goal is to create something that will." 
— Chuck Palahniuk (Diary)

"It's always Mardi Gras somewhere." 
— Tanya Huff (Summon the Keeper (Keeper Chronicles, #1))

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