My Third Novel's Conclusion, My Heartbreak

My heart begins to break when I think about completing this particular book -- because this narrative has sustained me like no other story I've known. It's both more personal and more universal than my other works. But beyond memory and archetype, it's a cri-de-coeur about needing to become the person one is destined to be. And in the writing, I have met my own life's work, my own fated journey -- having the sense all the while that the pages are suffused with a resonance, an energy, an electrified field that defies explanation. Writers hope and pray to be overtaken by a work in this way -- to be conscripted into passionate service of a profound story. To experience it even once in a lifetime seems a great privilege. I still have perhaps six months before this novel is complete, and this constitutes my reprieve. Because I'm not ready for the beauty to end.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Hypnotist

It's fascinating to me to perceive the extent to which an artist's relationship to the work conveys itself to the audience.  When imagining my characters' lives, I try intuitively to feel them, see them, witness them up close.  As with all lives, their experience reaches me in eminently subjective ways.  And great art, I would argue, thrives with a measure of uncontained subjectivity.

Van Gogh didn't paint a vase of sunflowers so much as he painted a vase containing the beauty that informed, enriched and redeemed his life -- a sort of euphoric view of those outsized blossoms, splashing the canvas in pieces of amber and gold and the hope the carried him forward in 1888.

How do I imagine the lives of my characters fully?  With my current novel, I listen to music that parallels the narrative -- I read literature that lays bare the elements of transformation -- and when I'm working in my library, I burn candles scented like honeysuckle and the sea.  The process feels a bit like meditation or even self-hypnosis.  If I manage to open a door to the fictional world, I can slip through it into a fully-realized universe of my characters' days.  Then, I'm just writing down what unfolds, rather miraculously, in front of me.  It's similar to what athletes refer to as "flow," an effortless engagement with the art, a day of creation that feels as fluid and seamless as breathing.

Later, when I meet with my professional writers' group to hear their impressions, I'm immensely pleased when they feel the same magic I felt while I was writing the words.

"How are you doing this?" they ask, as if I were levitating in front of them.  "Tell us your secrets."

But there's a mystery at the heart of beauty.  I don't like to question it too much.  When I'm fortunate enough to bring my characters to full and resplendent life, I would rather accept the inexplicable gift -- day after exquisite day -- until the story is told.

10 comments:

  1. I love the way you discuss the sense of flow as you're writing. Does it really feel effortless to you?

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    1. Yes, when I'm in the zone, so to speak, the writing is entirely effortless. It's a magical feeling.

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  2. At what point do your characters seem to take on lives of their own?

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    1. From the very beginning -- they really live and breathe for me!

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  3. Who are your favorite subjective writers?

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    1. Tolstoy is brilliant, of course. His close third-person point of view in Anna Karenina is exquisitely subjective. I would include Faulkner and James Joyce as well.

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  4. How was the Rodin exhibit?

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    1. Beautiful, sensual, transcendent, heartbreaking, true. There was fascinating background information on the roles Rose Beuret and Camille Claudel played in Rodin's life -- They both loved him immeasurably -- and his work reflects both the passion and pathos present within his life.

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  5. Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth between the fictional world you're imagining and the real world with all its daily demands?

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    1. Very. I try to create longer spans of work during the day so that I can enter that sense of "flow" and remain there for awhile.

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