Writers aren’t superhuman (or the case for multiple dimensions)

Let’s get the whining out of the way right now. Writing is hard. And working on multiple novel-length projects while also trying to generate short content and still be a good friend and daughter and life partner and colleague – not to mention bathing and eating and sleeping – is the road to ruin. Maybe that’s excessive.  It’s a road akin to something like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Desolate.  Smothering fatigue at the grind of an endless, hopeless task, like a pencil sharpened down to its eraser and thus rendered useless.

I must have a real point beyond the trite and predictable drone of complaint for my self-serving and ego-lifting activities. I have several, in fact, which can be distilled into a word appetizer: commitment, humility, and respect. These are big vague concepts, and lend themselves to rumination.

  1. Writing, and really any art form, requires time and dedication. Finished works do not birth themselves. They do not spring out of the ether, sleek and spry and ready to inflict upon people whatever laudable qualities they possess. A finished piece of writing is time laid out in crispy layers, like honeyed phyllo dough. It is strata of earth compressed. It is time condensed into one deceptive layer. The viewer does not see all of the time; they do not see all of the layers. We get credit for the finished piece, but we don’t get credit for all minutes and hours and weeks and months it took to create it.
  2. We are human beings, requiring sleep and sustenance (both for the body and the mind). We cry when we break a bone, or slice through our protective layer of skin. Or when a project becomes warped and stiff and unworkable.  We are not gods. We are not invincible. At times we are so short-sighted we can’t see the glasses on our noses as we desperately search for them. And yet our dreams are the size of galaxies, filled with light and darkness, radio frequencies and gasses, matter and anti-matter. We heap expectations, like Thanksgiving dinner, on our proverbial plates, and are diminished when lethargy takes hold not more than half-way through. It is this incongruity, which motivates us to create, and pains us at the immensity of the journey.
  3. The works we strive to create, those galaxies, are monoliths and we are pinpricks. Yet, a camera obscura is also a pinprick. In the right setting, it reveals the outside in inverted photographic clarity. We must take care to make the hole just right, to make the room dark enough, and to give the scene the right surface upon which to be exposed. We must make space for that thing to be created, as well as the process by which it’s created.

Though these three things are some of the dimensions of creativity, but they are by no means all. I have recently traveled through them (and others), and I will do so again soon. Each new foray starts as a beautiful day, with the fall nowhere in sight.


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