Friday, January 12, 2007

The Fine Craft Of Creativity in Writing

Once upon a time, I succumbed to the myth that creativity was unforced and spontaneous. I believed that it was never a matter of the writer's choice as to when inspiration would strike, but a combination of chance and circumstance. I have come to the conclusion in recent weeks, however, that this is not necessarily the case.

For example...

Asphodel was entertainment driven. I was laid up on the couch for almost 3 years without vital necessities of life like internet and cable tv. I had to entertain myself, so I wrote. Every night, I went to bed after hours of working on the story. What would I do tomorrow? How would such and such plot conflict be resolved? What possible way would I find to extract the heroine from whatever her current crisis was without resorting to deus ex machina? The next morning, I'd fire up the computer with trepidation. Would the muse show up? Or, would I be relegated to playing endless hours of Snood waiting for divine revelation to strike me?

I very rarely played Snood.

It was interesting to witness, almost as if in third person, how my mind took over the solution of whatever story dilemmas I'd created the day before. I do not recollect any conscious thought going into most of my plot resolutions. They just....happened and I let the story follow the flow of my much-nimbler-than-I-realized mind.

Nowadays, things are different. I am more organized as a writer. I have allotted time blocks set aside daily for writing which I rarely miss. (Granted, lately I haven't been writing much but that's not my fault. I'm back on track now.) I don't wait for the muse to show up any more; now I drag her, kicking and screaming, to the laptop with me.

I rarely have a direction when I sit down to write, even now. I'm never quite sure which project I'll delve into until I open up the file. But then the words just flow--yes, some of them superfluous, some of them even--dare I say it?--adverbial, but still they struggle and race onto the screen without a conscious decision on my part to force them out. The difference, however, is that now when I write I am conscious of my craft.

The craft of creativity. It is a lost art in many ways. Creativity must be channelled, funnelled into a recognizable shape and form that adheres to the standards of the profession. Creativity must be restrained within the confines of the willing suspension of disbelief, yet must stretch those boundaries to the utmost if you are a speculative fiction writer. Creativity must be uniform, garbed within the strictures of grammar and vocabulary and accessibility to your readers. Asphodel was written with only one reader in mind: me. Believe it or not, it's very easy for me to understand what I'm writing. It's not quite so easy for others to follow my convoluted thought processes and extreme vocabularic choices--or so I'm told. My later stories, however, were written for other people to read. Darkshifters began as a short story that I thought I'd post at fantasy writers just to get a feel for this new world bouncing around in my head. Then it turned into a compulsion. Do any of you realize that at its height, I was churning out over a chapter a day of Darkshifters? While still working on the sixth book of Asphodel?

No wonder I'm irritable.

Lately, the erotica venture has shut out some of my more mainstream writing time. Now I have deadlines (yes, I hate them) and obligations to meet contractually. I've had to learn to focus my creative thought processes minutely into a single project in order to get it done. It is a lesson more writers need to learn. Until you've mastered the science and sitting down and writing every day whether you want to or not on a story that you don't really feel like touching at the moment you can have very little concept of what goes into the CRAFT of creativity. Not an art--that is internal and fueled by inspriation-- but a craft, a skill honed by practice and dedication over a significiant amount of time.

Make no mistake, that time factor has a hell of a lot to do with it. Until you have the time in, there's absolutely no reason for any young author to make demands on him or herself that are unattainable. In writing, more so than most creative fields, the art cannot evolve until the craft is second nature--and it is within the craft that the writer's true fulfillment is found.

Stop being so hard on yourself. It will come in time.