Back before the Internet, when my two sources of interruption were the mailman and the telephone, my computer functioned like a typewriter or notebook, singular in its purpose. I like to imagine that I could focus, settling down into a project, losing myself in creation and emerging hours later, but the truth is I grasped for distractions even then—a hangnail, lukewarm coffee in need of heating, the dirty laundry which might as well go into the washer because I wasn’t getting much done anyhow.
Prayer was no different. (more…)
After having done all I can for a writing project—after it’s finished, published, promoted, and my energy for it is exhausted—I enter creativity’s no-man’s-land. It’s a sprawling, barren landscape. Either I’m worn out from the last project with little energy for the next, or I feel used up, as though I’ve reached the end of inspiration’s wellspring, or I’m writing but whatever I draft is a sprawling, blathering desert of words. I feel bereft; I’ve left a lovely world of my own making and can never return. I’m hopeless, because despite whatever success my project achieved, it’s inadequate, and besides, what more could I possibly do? I wonder whether I’ll ever write well again.
Luckily I’ve been around this block enough times to know this emptiness passes. (more…)
Whenever readers express their admiration for what I’ve created, I feel abashed. For many years I interpreted this as feeling fraudulent, as though surely I hadn’t written whatever they’d read or perhaps they were projecting their own unintegrated esteem onto me or buttering me up. Then I went through a spell of deliberately trying to take in others’ praise. I’ve earned it! I told myself. But that didn’t sit right. Later I tried practicing gratitude; the opportunity to have a reader read my words is a real gift, and doubly so when the reading experience matters to the reader.
Somehow, though, none of these reactions to others’ praise felt right. Was I conditioned to deflect compliments? Why, despite positive responses, did I never feel worthy? (more…)
Endel, an artist friend of mine, believes that the audience for a work of art emerges from the artist. Whoa! Let me say that again. Endel thinks that audience evolves from the artist through the art into the real people who encounter the art.
This makes my head spin. I’ve always thought of audience as a bunch of people scattered around the country like you, my faithful blog readers; I reach out to you with these words; you read them (or not) and become their audience (or don’t). When I write I have you in mind but I imagine you as separate from me in identity and body. I think of my words as bridging the gap between us.
Endel doesn’t. (more…)
One of the hardest things about creative writing, as far as I’m concerned, is the pervasive sense of getting nowhere. Sure, I might have a productive morning and crank out a few thousand words, but tomorrow I’ll cut half of them, and even if I don’t I’ll likely wait years before those words see the light of day. If I see them in print I’ll do a little jig. But I’ve published enough to know that publishing isn’t ultimately satisfying. What does satisfy is the creative journey itself and any journey my writing gives readers—but even this I rarely see. (more…)
Recently I was digging around on the Internet in search of the source of the Annie Dillard quotation I’ve been reflecting on for months. Turns out it’s from her book, Living By Fiction. Here’s the immediate context:
The most extreme, cheerful, and fantastic view of art to which I ever subscribe is one in which the art object requires no viewer or listener – no audience whatever – in order to do what it does, which is nothing less than to hold up the universe… Thoughts count. A completed novel in a trunk in the attic is an order added to the sum of the universe’s order. It remakes its share of undoing. It counteracts the decaying of systems, the breakdown of stars and cultures and molecules, the fraying of forms.
Dillard is more radical than I supposed—radical, that is, in the original sense of “forming the root.” She understands creativity to work at a metaphysical level, transforming the basic stuff of the universe. (more…)