How does creation happen?

Okay, folks; hang on tight: I’m going to go metaphysical on you today. I think I’ve located a fallacy within how writers think about creation, and I want to unpack it with you. This fallacy is relevant to all artists and everyone committed to transformation, of self or society, so even if you’re not a writer, come along for the ride.

When writers work, we imagine ourselves as the source of an idea or at least as the channel for inspiration. We identify closely with our idea; we generate text; we revise; we as authors are the dynamic moving the project forward. At the other end of our project, we imagine a publisher acting as a gatekeeper to an audience, who will read our work and be entertained or educated or transformed by it. We picture this timeline like this:




From Will to Inspiration: The Creative Spectrum

Image 1Today I’m celebrating marvelous diversity in creative process. On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got Vladimir Nabokov, who claimed his characters were his galley slaves. Here the artist controls the medium and the content. You have an idea and, with great discipline and hard-earned skill, you execute it. On the other end of the spectrum, you get the novelists whose characters dance the tarantella or pick up a gun or cook tortellini of their own volition. The artist is simply a channel for material and craft. Creative energy works through you and your creation, surprising you in the process.

Then there’s the muddled middle between willful exertion and utter surrender which is where most artists reside. (more…)