// Mystery //
I watched this video featuring Jhumpa Lahiri who is one of my heroes and ultimate favorites, and in it she talks about how writing is a very mysterious process and she doesn’t really understand how she does what she does. Which I found comforting because for awhile now what’s stunted me is the feeling that I need to be cognizant of everything, and have it be very planned out. I tried to plan, and it didn’t work. I’ve tried not planning, but that doesn’t work either. Nothing works. It seems, sometimes, that nothing will ever work.
// Awareness //
Here is what needs to be understood, or maybe better yet, not understood but somehow, come to peace with: Channeling from that mysterious source but simultaneously being keenly aware of the plot, so that you can go on. So that it takes you somewhere, or is it you that is taking it somewhere? Basically I don’t want to write a novel that’s the equivalent of the Lost series. It can’t all be beautiful pretty words that go nowhere and end in a lame dream. I suppose that’s one thing I’ve learned in the last three years.
// Math //
I think there is an element of math to creative writing which I never wanted to believe in, but I am starting to see the edges of. There’s a lot of probability that is thrust in your face, that you have to acknowledge. You are in control, and that’s terrifying. It’s about putting one word in front of the other—it’s that easy, and it’s that hard, says Neil Gaiman. You can write about the things that you wished had happened to you, but never did. The things that did happen, but went wrong—you can fix them. You can create new worlds.
// Magic //
We say very matter-of-factly, “They created a world! A fully-formed world!” when we talk about authors like Tolkien or even Jane Austen and Jeffrey Eugenides, masters of fiction who dealt with both fantasy and reality but at such a high level it’s insane to imagine how they were able to pull it from their minds. But in actuality, it isn’t a matter of fact at all. It’s magic. You need to be as devoted to it, if you want to be a great writer, as you are devoted to taking a breath in and out and doing it again for the rest of your life. To somehow reach the point where you can do this, even if for a short period of time—there’s a reason why most writers aren’t always writing, although they do it daily, mostly because they would probably go crazy if they didn’t stop sometimes—this is where the magic is. And also, magic is channeling the stuff within while still drawing a plot. It’s flowing reason within fantasy, it’s letting yourself go completely while still remaining in control (mostly through revision). It must be similar to lucid dreaming. It may even be something like dying and then coming back to life. Magic is also living with perpetual failure and not letting it make you stop. “It’s a matter of analyzing the flaws, and working with that knowledge. We are limited and graced by our own pair of eyes,” says Jhumpa Lahiri.
// Inside //
I have trouble imagining whole new worlds and writing from the perspective of characters I know nothing about. I’m not opposed to it, but I’ve never been able to do it successfully. I don’t know if I want to, or need to. What works for me: connecting to characters in an intense, really fucked up way. Or I see it as fucked up, perhaps this is just “normal” for writers. But this is why I have so much trouble with secondary characters I create to act as a foil against my heroine, who is always some version of me. That’s something I still haven’t figured out. In a sense I cannot get away from myself, when I write. And this is something that paralyzes me: The fear of what I will find, when I allow myself to look within and reveal the secrets that I have untold access to, only in that special state when I’m trasmitting something that goes beyond my thoughts and feelings, but becomes another world, an existence that is really real, because I created it in my mind.
// Fear //
What might happen to me, if I successfully change things that happened to make them resemble a life I never lived but exists somewhere within myself?
Will I be forever stuck between the desperate urge to find out and never turn back, and the horrified wish I could back away and be rid of this for good?