Fresh Moments of Creative Chaos: Thomas Calder introduces a collection of collages created by writers

I always feel a little sad when people talk about inspiration. If only that elusive lift would arrive, certainly they’d have already written the next great novel/poem/play/memoir/television series/movie. But alas! The flair never came. Of course, my sadness quickly turns to annoyance, if not anger. Inspiration plays its part, sure. But it’s a minor element. Belief that inspiration alone will carry you through a project trivializes the creative process. It turns it into magic. Voila: a completed manuscript pulled out of an upturned top hat. But this isn’t magic, what we’re doing here. It’s work. It’s craft. It’s discipline.

A real writer isn’t waiting for inspiration; a real writer is chasing that shit down. As a result, the early outcomes are fairly chaotic. You go wherever it takes you (which usually results in a lot of aimless dialogue and irrelevant scenes). But eventually, both parties slow down. And just like that (25,000 extraneous words later), you understand where inspiration’s been headed this whole time. Granted, this is where the heavy lifting truly begins. The manic chase turns into the slow, methodical act of revision. And more revision. And more revision after that. Ishmael took to the ocean when he grew grim about the mouth.

In a similar state, I take to collaging. It allows me to revisit that earlier chase. Except I go in knowing it’ll only be a fifty yard dash. I’m not breaking a sweat. I’m just getting my heart back in the game. And that’s important. To collage reminds me of the earlier stages of the writing process. This recollection helps fuel further drafts. Because in the beginning, I was chasing something down. And now that I’ve caught it, there’s no letting go. I’m sure there are collage artists out there—actual, talented visual artists who are committed to the medium—who might find this offensive. I’m not trying to suggest that writing is a superior, more demanding form. What I’m suggesting is that all artists could benefit from an additional outlet. Something they can approach without expectation or the false notion of expertise. Something they can be happy with and proud of within the first, chaotic draft. Something they can quit.

Because we’ve all been there. That sixth or seventh round. You’re tired and numb and terrified. Not because you’re worried you won’t finish it or that you won’t figure it out, but because you know that you will finish it and that you will figure it out. But with that you also understand the next round will likely pose just as many demands and unforeseen obstacles. In other words, you’re fully committed to and ready for the additional work that lies ahead. That’s that discipline you’ve been crafting, alongside your sentences. You don’t need some magic top hat. Still, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to shun the magic all together. Remember, from time to time, we all need to get out of our heads and play. We all need to embrace fresh moments of creative chaos. We all need to chase some shit down.

In the gallery above, you’ll find collages by poets and prose-writers alike. You’ll witness a broad range of aesthetic infatuations, varying degrees of pop-cultural self-reflexivity, and cutting styles ranging from whimsical to downright worried. But what draws these works together is a shared interest in working “off the page” to create art with an immediate impact. And, because it’s important in times like these to listen to what our writers and artists are telling us, Miracle Monocle invites you to enjoy this literary foray into the art of the collage. What does it mean that so many of today’s writers are turning to this form for respite? We’re not sure we can say, exactly, but we can show you what it looks like when they do.

Click through to see more remarkable collages by:

Andrew Bales
Thomas Calder
John Gallaher
Luke Geddes
Karyna McGlynn
Matthew Vollmer