Daily Archives: August 28, 2012

A Blog on Inspiration, with some Chaucer

‘O lady myn, that called art Cleo,     Thow be my speed fro this forth, and my Muse,/ To ryme wel this book til I haue do;     Me nedeth here noon othere art to use.’ (Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, Book II, ll. 8-11)

This morning I woke up with no idea what to write here.  My muse, such as she is, had decided to take a morning off, without giving me notice first; it was a strange sensation.  I thought ‘maybe I’ll write about baking’, another of my interests.  Or, ‘maybe I should write a bit about happiness.’  But I didn’t think they sounded all that interesting.  I mean, I find baking fascinating when I’m engaged in it – there are few things in life I like more than to be covered in flour.  Happiness, too, is best enjoyed when you’re covered in it.  But nothing really concrete about either of those topics decided to make itself known to me.  This, I thought, could be a good thing – I can save them for another day.  But that still left me stuck.  After a few moments’ thought, I considered, perhaps:

‘Thanne [was] it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee’ (Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale, ll. 3041-2)

I decided, as Chaucer advises, to ‘make the best of it’, and write something about inspiration.

I hope you’ll indulge my quoting from Chaucer, one of my favourite writers; I can’t apologise for it, because he’s my touchstone.  Where other people go straight to Shakespeare, or Keats, if they’re stuck for words or they need comfort, I go to Chaucer.  There’s nothing he hasn’t written about, nothing he hasn’t experienced (in words, at least), he created some of the most moving and beautiful poetry ever written in English (and yes, despite appearances, it is written in English!) – yet, even he suffered from bouts of writer’s block.  He is invoking Cleo, one of the Muses, in the first extract, asking her to help him ‘ryme wel,’ and he tells her that she is the only inspiration he needs; Cleo must perhaps be a jealous Muse.  Perhaps she wouldn’t wish to share inspiration duties with any of her sisters, or indeed anyone or anything else in Creation.  Clearly, whatever Chaucer said, it worked!  He had a gift when it came to sweet-talking, maybe.  It gives me hope to know that even a creative master like Chaucer suffered droughts of inspiration, because when I’m going through one, it makes me feel as though I have something in common with one of my heroes.

Perhaps it’s even true to say that occasional lapses in inspiration are necessary, because there has to be a time when you need to replenish your store of ideas.  You can’t continually deplete your well – it has to have time to refill, every so often.

I’m trying to bear this in mind as I look around inside my brain and realise it resembles the inside of a ping-pong ball this morning.  Only one thing for it – I’ll get out into the air, take some deep breaths (inspiration/inhalation), invoke Chaucer, and hope for the best.  Wish me luck!