I am restless.
I wander through words and ideas aimlessly, meandering, hoping that someone’s voice will call out “Tell my story!”
“Tell my story!”
Today, the talented Andra Watkins shared her concerns about writing, and about the connections between writers and their characters. She writes:
I mean, at this point, I think anyone who decides to write a book is insane, but I’m wondering specifically about my sanity. Especially since I had a panic attack and came close to (at a minimum) being seriously injured and (at a maximum) dying this past Friday, in a place that I’m sure my main character saw.
For the full post, please visit Andra’s blog, The Accidental Cootchie Mama.
I don’t think Andra is insane, or at least no more than anyone else who ventures into this strange world of sharing stories through the written word or any other arts. In fact, in some ways I envy her that connection she has with her characters.
Or maybe that makes me crazier than she is.
Let me try to explain.
Stories unite us. Stories connect us. Stories exist in everything around us. True, stories can also hurt, separate, confuse, and condemn–that is part of their power. But, stories do not exist in a vacuum or come from a void. We don’t pluck our stories out of nothing and form them from nothing, we create from the abundance of material that surrounds us–sometimes material that sneaks into our creative subconscious from unknown sources.
As writers, as artists, we are simply receptacle of the abundance of story, and we take all that input and give it form.
If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem. (Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
The writers I most admire, Andra included, have a way of tapping into their subjects that helps their reader join them in a world almost more real than our own. Even in non-fiction, the best writers (in my opinion) bring to life the lives and stories of their subjects so that we can experience a time, a place, a situation that might be outside our own everyday reality.
That is the power of story.
Occasionally I am able to tap into that energy, and heed the voices of the stories waiting there, yearning to be told. I’ve taken walks and had long conversations with characters (in my head) one of which lead to manuscript that I am trying (fearfully) to get out into the world. I wrote about that “conversation” in a post called “Walking with Invisible Friends” on the original incarnation of this blog.
I love it when the words seem to come from a place both inside and outside of myself. I struggle when I can’t seem to find the connection, or hear the loudest voice–find the story that needs to be told. It’s not about writer’s block. I have plenty of ideas floating around my head for both fiction and non-fiction, for adults and kid, short and long. No, the problem lies when no voice is strong enough, no character or person stands up, when the swirl of creativity spins so quickly I cannot hold onto anything long enough to give it justice.
That is why I envy Andra. Perhaps she’s ready to let this character go, but he obviously has more to say, or maybe he is simply nudging her to get his story out there. I, for one, can’t wait to read it.
Where do you think stories come from? How do you connect with your characters so that you can share their stories.