After a long hiatus spent revising my backlist for publication as ebooks, I’ve found my way back to writing creatively. The renewal of the artistic process returns me to the fundamental questions every writer faces and which were initially posed for me some years ago – and are well worth regarding again:
Why write creatively? What inspires?
The short answer is that I’m inspired by the mystery of reality.
And here’s a wordy reply (and more precise): We are all fugitives. We have always been fugitives from the mystery of existence. Whatever comfort, whatever power we gain from outside of ourselves diminishes us – because comfort and power, unless they are won from the unknowing inside of us, are illusions that make us forget the mystery that carries us. When we forget that, we believe we know ourselves and the world and deserve comfort and power – and then, to fulfill this conviction, we are capable of any evil. We deserve nothing but what we make of ourselves within our own unknowing. We deserve nothing else. And when we understand that, then nothing is enough. And the blank page is the ideal emblem for the mysterious void we face when we’re honest – and that inspires me to fill the page creatively!
What is the significance of art?
The significance we can take from art is that our lives are, indeed, fabled days that should be tempered with time for quiet attentiveness and, in that precious space, appreciation for all those surprising depths and heights we've known in the course of life. Most of all, art potentially comforts and exalts us with the profound continuities of life: history, memory, and the magnificent beauty of nature.
What is the process of writing imaginatively?
The most salient fact about imaginative writing is that it really is all in our head. In that crazy place, nothing is easy – except what happens spontaneously. The part of the mind that makes up dreams, that naturally generates fantasy, is a major player in any imaginative endeavor but especially writing, because, unlike other art forms, text is purely noetic – all in our head. My experience is that whatever difficulty I confront with the material – the form, genre, voice, plot – is really a reminder to look around inside my mind for intrapsychic allies, the characters with whom I’m working but especially the dreamshaper, who scripts our dreams each night and who creates the characters. Once we hook up, then it becomes a question of keeping up!
What advice would you give other writers?
The very best advice about writing creatively that I ever received came from Sin-liqe-unninni, the first author ever to affix his name to a written story, 3,800 years ago. He was a Mesopotamian exorcist and the author of The Epic of Gilgamesh: “Writing is a congress with the divine. The most vivid writing comes directly from copulating with the gods.” You’ll notice, he doesn’t suggest conversing with the ‘gods,’ the intrapsychic factors that spontaneously generate fantasies. The first author directs us to copulate with the divine!
The worst advice ever: Write what you know. There’s a fool’s errand! The psychiatrist R. D. Laing eloquently explains why: “What we think is less than what we know; what we know is less than what we love; what we love is so much less than what there is. And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are.”