If we’re attempting to assemble a gadget we can follow step-by-step directions. Unfortunately, creativity doesn’t work that orderly way. It’s more like stop, go, revise, reverse, round-about. That might make an intriguing board game, but it’s sheer frustration for writers and artists. (Actually writers are artists, too!) The creative process is typically “disorganized” because it reflects “our chaotic and multifaceted nature.” That’s the opinion of Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire, in their recently published book, WIRED TO CREATE. Given all the detours, how and when your work might be completed is “uncontrollable.”
George R. R. Martin, author of the fantasy series Game of Thrones, was up against this as he struggled to produce the sixth book in the series. This January he missed his deadline – for the second time. As he candidly blogged to his faithful fans, “Truth be told, sometimes the writing goes well and sometimes it doesn’t.”
I have yet to discover an express route for this. It still amazes me that I can realize my manuscript needs something different to bring it alive, yet be unable to see through the fog to the solution. This happened most strikingly when I was working on my book about the first ten Biblical heroines , TEN WOMEN OF VALOR. Halfway through the manuscript , I became painfully aware that it wasn’t what I wanted. There were facts galore, thanks to conscientious research. But I didn’t want the book to be about what these women did, but how they felt. To show that they not only had strong faith, but feelings common to us today: ambition, passion, envy. Yet I couldn’t find my way to this no matter how hard I struggled. Perhaps my Muse took pity on me, because one night as I lay awake wrestling with this dilemma, I seemed to hear her voice whispering, “Why don’t you let these women speak for themselves?” I leaped up, stunned at this new vision. Instead of the author describing in third person the actions of these women, let each woman speak in the first person. The moment I tried this out I knew I’d found the key to the heart and mind of each of these distant ancestors.
I still don’t understand why it took so many blank months before this epiphany. I only know something similar has happened with each of my books. I once heard Canadian author Margaret Atwood talk about the time she was well into one of her novels when she realized she was on the wrong track and would have to start over. “For writers , that’s Tylenol time,” she said.
Like many other things in life — finding the right mate, or a way to connect with your adolescent — it’s a wait-it-out process. You can tell your muse to rush because you have a deadline, but muses don’t obey. It seems there’s nothing we can do about it, unless we give up on art and become accountants. (I’m sure they have their frustrations, too! It isn’t just writing and painting that are loaded with in-born road blocks.)
Reviewing WIRED TO CREATE in The New York Times, Christie Aschwanden labeled all this “The Blessed Mess of Creativity.” Mess, yes. Blessed, we have to believe.
So what can we do about it? We can bang our head against a wall, “rage against the dying of the (creative) light,” and even swear never to write anything again. But none of these would help. The only solution, according to Kaufman and Gregoire, is to accept these aptly named “murky places. ” Ironically, they are where the “creative magic“ may suddenly happen. Eventually, that is.
I try to remind myself this is like the troughs between waves,. Meanwhile, take long walks, chat with friends, stock up on movies, permit your mind to wander freely. And trust that something’s going on beneath the surface. In current parlance, Hang Loose . According to Kaufman and Gregoire, “the ability to tolerate and embrace the discomfort of this process is a hallmark of creative people.”
I just wish that, like my TV remote, there could be an On Demand button !
WEBSITE : annehosansky.com
BOOKS: WIDOW’S WALK – available at iUniverse.com. TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW – xLibris.com. ROLE PLAY and TEN WOMEN OF VALOR – CreateSpace.com & Amazon.com. Also Amazon Kindle.