Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


The Oddness of It

With eyes squeezed shut, I sat Indian-style on my bed this morning in a brown study of concentration. I was trying to picture a certain street I needed to describe for my novel. Suddenly, the sheer oddness of my endeavor and the picture I made struck my funny bone and I started to giggle. There I was, one lone girl trying to see a street that doesn't exist so I can describe it in detail for a story to be told to real human beings about people who exist only in my mind. Storytelling, writing, creativity of any sort is just a downright odd endeavor. And artists (of any stripe) are really odd ducks.

I mean, here we little human creators are pouring mind, heart, and blood into the work of  "make believe" in the wild hope that we can make others believe in the worlds we conjure and the stories we are convinced we have to tell.

And when it comes to making those stories, the strangeness just extends. If there is one thing that strikes me with an almost eerie feel every time I set to writing, it is the sense that I am not really in control. The characters I find in my head come to me like new acquaintances, and I have to spend time with them, I have to be nice to them before I can really know how they will act. If I force a false move on them, I feel it in my writing bones and nothing goes right the rest of the page.

And the world itself? Describing a scene in the tale is more like touring a place I've heard about for a long time, rather than something I make as I go. I enter into the setting of my novel within my mind, I go for a walk within it and somehow, in a collusion between my own imagination and something beyond my ken, I am both the maker and receiver of the world I am telling. Strange stuff.

And sometimes, a scene, a place, a person comes to me with a beauty so independent of my own thought that I know I had nothing to do with the making. I stare at it within my imagination, unwilling to leave the inner place of my thought in order to tell what I have seen.

But when I do, the work of trying to give it articulation is just downright hard. The whole writing process really is. It's a sweat and chew your pencil and steel your muscles for one more try sort of work. At least for me.

Sometimes, I just want to give it all up, abandon the hare brained endeavor to tell forth a world that came to me without words. Sometimes I just want to dwell in the dreams without that compunction that comes like grief or guilt that I must write this down.

But the drive to write always returns. The need to tell what I have seen, the sense even, that telling is obedience, always seeps back into my heart and I begin again. Because in the stories I tell and the best stories I have read, I glimpse the world that I yearn to be true.

Stories picture what is possible, what ought to be, what we must bring into being within this world. Stories offer us a taste of the beauty we have never seen, yet have desired from the day of our birth.

But they also show us how that beauty may be lived and crafted straight into this world. Surely it is the story-formed souls who see their own lives as a great stories to be made. Surely a story gives the mind that reads it a keener sense of itself as the hero or heroine of its own tale. Stories, these worlds existing only in the imagination, teach us just how to act, choose, love, fight, and create what we desire in the world that we taste and touch and see every day.

And it all begins with one barefoot girl of a writer perched on a little bed in Scotland for a morning of imagination.

What oddity it all is!


Sarah Clarkson3 Comments