How do we create something out of nothing? Or perhaps a better question is—how do we create, period? Where does the creative impulse come from, and how can we find it? How do we know when we have “it”?
These circular questions arise with writers and all creative artists, and there is no answer that fits everyone. The “answer” is the process itself. As a writing coach and teacher, it seems important to have us examine the energy and art of being creative, and be able to find ourselves in the flow of it.
What’s interesting is that the process takes focus, yet we need to allow time to be unfocused, which invites the unknown to make its way into our consciousness. Most writers talk about how they find themselves as a channel for a force that moves through them. They are not “trying” to write. Then there are those times when no matter what we try, we can only squeeze out a few lines. And they are bad lines at that. What to do?
Last year, I had to stop writing the memoir I was working on at the 85,000 word mark when I realized that I was coming at it with a theme and voice that wasn’t working out. And worse, I felt that the voice of the narrator was wrong. I began to feel that the writing didn’t fit my inner intention, which wasn’t clear until I had written nearly the whole book. Well, I can say it was a bit disconcerting, but by then, I was relieved to make the decision to stop because the sense that it was not going in the right direction had been niggling at me for some time.
I was not sure that I would find the “right” voice, but I knew that I had to go into silence to discover it. I allowed myself to stop thinking about the book and find silence within, where perhaps something new might be born. I read novels, poetry, and allowed my imagination to flitter about while taking care not to pounce on any particular idea. I didn’t write anything down during that month-long period. I meditated on the idea that my creative process would let me know when there was something interesting to pay attention to, and sure enough it did. About five weeks after the experiment started, a phrase popped into my mind in a voice I felt I could live with. They turned out to be the first lines in the book I’m about to publish.
I learned so much from writing the first version that I abandoned. I knew what I needed to leave out, and I had a clearer sense of my themes and how to carry the project through.
Writing a book is a fraught activity. There is no guarantee that you will get to the end with something you feel good about. It can feel fine then jump off the rails just when you feel you have “arrived.”
The lesson, I believe, is to write with faith and hope, and not get attached to the outcome. To listen and capture what arises, in hopes that we can keep going. It’s important not to worry about the process Worry creates a blockage and that doesn’t help. We want to keep the flow going as much as we can, and enter into the stream where we flow into the next paragraph and chapter, one by one. The book begins to build itself, it begins to become what it’s trying to be.
I hope you can join us on Friday, March 17, when Kay Adams will talk about Writing Your Creative Manifesto!