Day 57

Author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) spoke at TED on writing and "genius." (video here)

I really like what she had to say about creativity and "genius" (or muse, as some of us would like to refer to). In a way, I think a lot of writers do subscribe to that notion, that there's something mysterious and divine outside of ourselves that drives us toward these crazy creative endeavors and ideas. Most of the time, we are simple, "normal" folks who want and desire things everyone does, and who live their lives one day at a time. But during these mad "creative" bursts, I for one can attest that it's as if I was possessed. Ideas and thoughts would keep rushing in, and I often would slap myself on the leg and say, "Wow, that's brilliant! Why didn't I think of it before?" And then I would feel guilty because I don't feel like I can take credit for it. Logically I "know" all of that comes from me, my mind, my soul... but on a strange level, I feel like someone else has done that.

I've always said that my characters came to me -- they're not my "creation." But instead, they are like real people, or something, who just appear in my subconsciousness and call me and say, "I have stories to tell you." It's hard to explain but that's how I've always felt about my characters and their stories. I don't feel like I'm some kind of god myself, creating these characters and stories out of my own genius. More often than not, I feel like I'm borrowing these characters and their stories for my own good.

Like these couple of days, my characters are yelling at me because I've been balking at writing what they're telling me -- partially because what they've been telling is so intense, emotional, and intimidating. I doubt myself: Do I have the skills to tell their stories. But right now, they are still screaming at me: JUST TELL IT. Also, there would be times when I felt that the plot should go a certain way or my characters should act a certain way, and they would yell at me and say, "No, no, no. That's not what I would do. Just write it the way it should be, okay?" It's both frustrating and wonderful.

For example, yesterday I was thinking my character would not be able to resist the temptation he's facing and he would succumb to his urges. But then he screamed at me, "No, no, no. Of course I would be tempted, but that's not who I am! I have enough self-control to understand it's not what I want. I didn't come this far just to throw it all away." And he's right! And once I agreed with him, the rest of the plot just flowed like chocolate milk. It's delicious.

500 words, 23600 words total
308 days and 161900 words to go


Melanie Avila said…
You've just described exactly the way I think! That's spooky. Especially the part about not feeling like I'm the one who created these stories. If I'm stuck on a scene and know more or less what's going to happen, I sometimes struggle because I feel like it's so obvious (because it's clear to me) that I worry it's not exciting/gripping/etc.

I'm glad it's flowing for you. :)
Ray Wong said…
I struggle with the "obvious" too, like maybe it's too cliched. Sometimes it really does help to think around it, like if A is obvious, why not B?
Melanie Avila said…
Exactly. Yesterday I was almost to the end of my wip when I realized I never actually explained the bad guy's motivation. It was all in my head & made perfect sense to me, but the reader didn't know. 2000 words later, they know. :)

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