For the last month, I’ve been engaged in the creative process of working on my first novel – the biggest writing project I’ve ever taken up – and inasmuch as it was prepossessing, there are some conclusions I’ve drawn that I would like to share without further delay. The project is not fully finished yet, nonetheless my lessons can’t wait any longer to be taken down.
Whether my thoughts oscillate around philosophy, spirituality, or psychoanalysis is not for me to judge. Also, as a disclaimer, I would like to state that when I speak of the creative process, I mean my own creative process. I haven’t done any case studies on a number of subjects greater than myself. I have no way of telling whether it’s universal. I imagine that the nature of creativity for other people can be very similar, very different, or exactly the same – I don’t know, and neither do I know if each of us has the same capacity for creativity.
Here’s my account of the introspective journey I’ve gone through throughout the last month or so.
My Creative Process
Writing fiction, I take tremendous inspiration from my own life – to the extent that I would call thievery. There has already been some commotion in my immediate environment related to writing fiction based on real life, which led me to write this poem:
writing is stealing life
and I’m the greatest thief
take your words, your eyes, your wife
then put my name underneath
I can clearly see why. Some of the characters resemble actual people, and some events parallel things that did actually happen.
What I do when writing, is that I take bits of personalities, events, and thoughts, only then to transform them into art. If life is a building under construction and surrounded by scaffolding, what I do is take that very scaffolding and create a new building within the same or a similar frame.
I am not entitled to take the events or people and transform them into art. But I do it anyway. The sole fact that I create something gives it validity to exist and to call my own. We all can have different perspectives on the same matters, hence just because I did it makes it my own.
(Besides, Leonardo DaVinci didn’t look like Mona Lisa at all, and no one had any problems with that.)
Especially when writing in the first-person narration, the reader can get the impression that me, the creator, states his opinion on another character, hence on another person. That I see as wrong. My intentions are – or ought to be – immaterial to the reader’s interpretation. Whatever you make of art, that’s what you make of art.
To illustrate, here are some examples:
- Sometimes when engaged in a conversation, I start daydreaming: what if I responded this way, what if that’s what they said, what if that’s what happened next or before that. It’s inspiration that channels new creative ideas onto the frame of real-life events.
- People have layers. When interacting with a person, certain traits of their character are more evident than others. I focus on these traits to create a new character. When I criticise the character, seeing them through a one-dimensional looking glass, that’s because that’s what the story needs. Meta-ironically, I say things just to acknowledge their existence, without necessarily forming an opinion on them.
- More often than not, characters are amalgams of people. This process is similar to Freud’s analysis of the dream work – a certain character is (in some cases) used not to pass judgement on them, but as a tool to illustrate an idea, a behaviour, or a desire – generally, a problem.
I am not my thoughts. They come to me and I notice them, yet it’s difficult to say to what extent I’m responsible for them. Surely, this thesis can be dangerous on both extremes (lack of free will as opposed to holistic responsibility), yet I cannot know which of them is more accurate – and neither does science. Paraphrasing Schopenhauer, you can do what you want, but you cannot want what you want. I believe you do however have the power to say no to desires and urges. Yes, consciousness is pretty messy, and understanding it is no trifle.
Fiction is called fiction for a reason. Don’t take it too personally, but take it very personally.
Creativity and God
A plethora of theologians claim that the people who wrote the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Many a time, when writing for several hours a day, I’ve had experiences that I would call spiritual. It was a naturally-induced high, a different state of consciousness. Sometimes these experiences were so vivid they frightened me. One might have the impression of talking to God. Thousands of years ago our grasp on the human psyche was nowhere near what we know now, and God was a straightforward answer to questions bigger than us.
Think of God not as a sentient being, an old grandpa, or the universe, but of His role in society. Religion gives people meaning, a sense of belonging, an identity. One could say that writing my book was a religious experience, with a little twist.
Writing doesn’t give my life meaning. It completely eradicates the urge to even seek it. In the creative process – call it the zone, flow, whatever – my sense of self dissolves. I no longer exist, inasmuch as I become a tool for ideas to take a tangible, experiencable form.
One more time I’d like to stress the similarity between creativity and dream work. According to Freud, when we dream, our subconscious takes over and presents us with the fulfillment of our wishes or a portrayal of our anxieties. I was amazed at how the creative process is able to dig material from the deepest layers of my subconscious mind. I’ve come to realise that, by noticing patterns of thought and behaviour, it can predict the future. Because of how creation and life – in my case – are intertwined, sometimes what I wrote happened to me after I wrote it. It’s hard to attribute some of the peculiarities to fluke in itself.
For example, one day I gave two of my characters a crystal each. Incidentally, they were rose quartz and amethyst. The very same day, when going through my memory box, I found the very same stones. I didn’t know they were there, and certainly I didn’t know they were the same kinds of crystals I used in my book. Did I manifest them?
Yes and no. I wasn’t aware that the two stones had been in the memory box for years, yet some part of my subconscious knew of their existence. Hence, it was something I didn’t know I knew. Maybe we don’t really forget things but repress them. And so, by unfolding a subconscious memory I had no idea about, my writing predicted the future – in a way.
Through the creative process, my subconscious can pinpoint my deepest fears, anxieties, and desires. It all does seem like a third eye, a transcendental experience which just comes to me naturally – and maybe it is, yet my skeptical mind is incapable of accepting it as such. Instead of drawing a line between spiritual and material, I’d rather seen them as one.
Creativity is God. It’s a bridge between the hidden parts of my consciousness and reality. The process is to me not a connection to something out there – it’s a very introspective task which can be therapeutic, self-explorational, and magical.
I don’t understand myself, but I try. Some thoughts I have I’d rather discard, but they’re still there – and I think they deserve to be transformed into art just because of it.
It was outstandingly difficult to put this article together. When it comes to talking about things on the ledge of the woo, it’s hard to formulate thoughts without sounding like a lunatic. Qualia – experience – is the area where language fails us. To actually feel the April raindrops fall on your face, to taste the lips of your lover, to hear your favourite song vibrate through your muscle tissue, is invaluable – writing stands no chance here.
Writing is the attempt to encapsulate experience in words, to paint a picture and tickle the reader’s senses by getting into their heads – somehow forcing them to imagine, remember, conjure. Maybe that’s why I love it so much.