Thursday, April 1, 2010

Discovering the Untamed Imagination

I've said to family and close friends (so please, count yourself into whichever category of familiarity you feel most comfortable with) that the learning curve I've been on as a novelist has been vertical. There is so much to learn about writing, crafting words, structuring a novel, developing three dimensional characters, voice, oh the list goes on. And I'm enjoying this journey very much. I am nothing much more than a learner.

In the mix of learning my craft, I've been examining my creative process. How my mind works, how I connect ideas to characters, situations to words. This too, has been beneficial to my work as a novelist.

Lately, I've felt a holy urging to look more closely at my imagination. My untamed creative imagination. While not entirely un-tread territory, I'm moving further into the depths, asking questions, talking to other creative people (writers, but no only writers), and taking notes. It's been fascinating and unsettling. It would be lovely if I were able to be coherent and sensible as I communicate some of what I'm learning. Alas, I correctly doubt my ability to do so. I will therefore resort to those most sane looking bullet points that make any and all nonsense appear organized and helpful.
  • My most wild imagination is laminated to my unanswered questions. I've little doubt this fact is what stops many people from fully embracing their deepest creativity. It is fraught with angst and doubt. It asks questions our minds and experience have no answers for. It invites us to explore the questions with no promise of finding answers. It defies the concrete, the easily understood.
  • Creativity is raw emotion brought fully alive though story. This follows my first point. If I'm going to muck around in my unanswered questions, there is little doubt this will lead me to poke at some tender emotions. Loss, fear, religious doubt, anger. It will also bring me face to face with the parts of myself I have long been taught were "wrong" or, at least required to be "held in strong check". Passion, fancy, irony, ego. Nothing is untouchable.
  • Allowing my creativity full control of my writing is a moment to moment act of faith. My fear over what will happen if I simply let the story and ideas swirl and mesh as they will without my controlling action seems - frankly - too artsy fartsy to be useful. Isn't novel about structure, plot, time lines (heaven help me with time lines), and making sense?Yes, in finished form it is. But if I try too hard to craft ideas into what I envision as the finished form, I will miss the meat of the story. I will be in danger of contriving rather than creating.
  • I believe the story IS the message. My wild creativity doesn't allow me to superimpose a message onto a novel. It demands I go diving into the story for the story's sake. It tells me to trust that meaning and message will be found inside the story. It tells me I am not the one who decides.
  • I believe that once the story lands in the hands of the reader, it belongs wholly to the reader. It becomes your novel - and your interpretation of the events and their meaning are correct. In a recent Facebook live chat someone asked Yann Martel, "Who was Richard Parker? (the name of the tiger in Life of Pi) His answer resonates with my understanding of how art is completely transferable from artist to beholder. He said, "Who is Richard Parker? He can be what you want him to be: Pi, a part of Pi, God, Fate--or perhaps just a tiger. You decide, you're the reader. I'm just the writer."
  • It is not my job to tell readers what to think. It is not my job to tell readers how to live out their faith. I am not the author of holy writ. I am one of many writers privileged to contribute to the ongoing conversations of culture and human existence. (This is freeing for me. I don't have to be perfect - I only need to be honest)
  • The story that emerges from the depths of creativity is unwieldy, difficult. Not necessarily one that has "BESTSELLER" written all over it. I must make peace with the story, not my hope of becoming a bestseller. The wild creative isn't interested in being popular, it is interested in being honest. It is in sharing authentic transparency that the writer finds a multitude of readers who are, after all, fellow travelers on the journey.
I bid you good writing.


Jan Cline said...

Oh my goodness, what a powerful post. We neglect our God given imagination dont we?? A book I found extremely helpful on this subject is "Be Your Own Creative Coach" by Walt Kallestad. He talks about unlocking the power of your imagination. I think I'll get it out and re-read it!

Steve G said...

One of your best posts! You truly are an artist.

Bonnie Grove said...

Thanks so much Jan. I haven't read the book you mentioned. I'll have to give a look see.

STeve: You're a tweety.