The IDEA of writing a book is fun.Writing a book is hard work. In fact, ideas are fun. A story starts as an idea. What would happen if…? Who are these people? What are they doing? Then suddenly, the idea turns into work. The people, the activities, the idea all have to form a recognizable shape. We all know the shape of a story. We’ve been taught it since we were infants at our mother’s knees. (Although different cultures have varying story shapes.) For me, the ideas, the people, the events look a lot more like a huge pile of tangled yarn than a neatly knitted scarf. My job is to knit the yarn into a project–scarf or otherwise.
Thinking about this creative process reminded me of a book I once read–Hundreds and Thousands–The Journals of Emily Carr. As a well-known Canadian artist (painter) I was curious about this woman. I’m not keen on some of her later work. I find some of it heavy and dark, almost oppressive feeling. But then there’s the other stuff that has an air of lightness and whimsy. For example, compare these two paintings.
But I loved reading her book. Spying on her I suppose. She struggled with her craft, never quite satisfied with what she produced. She said, "My sketches have zip to them but they don’t strike bottom yet. They move some but I want them to swell and roll back and forth into space, pausing here and there to fill out the song, catch the rhythm, to go down into the deep places and pause there and to rise up into the high ones, exulting. Let the movement be slow and savor of solidity at the base and rise quivering to the tree tops and to the sky, always rising to meet it joyously and tremulously. The objects before one are not enough, nor color, nor form, nor design, nor composition. If spirit does not breath through, it is lifeless, dead, voiceless. And the spirit must be felt so intensely that it has power to call others in passing, for it must pass, not stop in the pictures but be perpetually moving through, carrying on and inducing a thirst for more and a desire to rise. " (Page 194 of Hundreds and Thousands: The Journals of Emily Carr.)
I love that passage. Perhaps because she has so clearly captured the way many artists– whether authors, painters or other medium–feel about the work they create. What I see in my head, the good idea, the struggling story don’t translate to the page as vividly as I always hope. I want my stories to ‘go down into the deep laces and pause there and to rise into the high ones, exulting.’
And so I capture ideas, untangle them and try to knit them into a story hoping always to capture the swell, the song, the vigor and the spirit of what God has planted in each story.