Monday, February 21, 2011

This One's a Writer

Elle Strauss had this interesting video up last week that featured Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love (link to post) discussing the idea of creative genius.

Gilbert talked about how assigning all the credit for great works of art to mere humans rather than some "other" force (or God) puts too heavy a burden on individuals, and results in self-destructive behaviors, depression, sometimes suicide.

I agree. But at the same time, I think these artists put way too much mystical emphasis on what they're doing--telling stories, writing songs, seeking to entertain.

Now if someone's writing spiritual documents or attempting to interpret religious texts or to provide some message or enlightenment, I think it's absolutely appropriate to bring in the concept of mysticism or divine inspiration.

But memoir writing? Fiction writing? Twilight? C'mon, people.

Personally, I do say a quick prayer many times before my fingers touch the keys. I'll pray either for the right words or clarity of thought, peace, good ideas, to write a classic... (wink). And then it's just me doing what I do with some days being better than others.

Maybe it's because I taught writing to high school students and watched as they practiced and improved. Maybe it's because I've seen myself improve as I practice.

Maybe it's because for the last 15 years, regardless of how I feel, if I don't write, I don't get paid. That doesn't mean I don't love it any less. But my writing is directly related to my income, and at times, it can feel, well, like a job.

I do get satisfaction from my subjects coming back and saying they liked what I wrote about them. I do get real satisfaction the times people tell me they had an emotional reaction to what I wrote--whether laughter or tears. But day in and day out, I just have to keep writing.

What do you guys think? Am I missing something here? Do you think some "other" force takes over and occasionally uses you as an instrument when you write?

I think, the divine act occurs when we're born with whatever gift we have--whether it's to design buildings, cook fabulous dishes, listen to others and help them solve their problems, or create entertainment.

I'm so thankful for my gift, but I'm also thankful for yours.

It's equally divine to be a loving, involved parent (or teacher or friend) who produces a child who turns around and writes a beautiful song or poem or story and who feels safe enough because of your love to face the challenge of trying to share it with the world.

Yes?

Have a great week, reader-friends! Til Thursday~ <3

33 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Great discussion. Maybe she's referring to what most people refer to as a muse. I do think God can intervene and inspire people. When the tabernacle was being built, his holy spirit filled people so they could complete the artistic gold work done on the arc. But again, I think that's a bit different than writing fiction. I think some are born with more natural talent than others but we all have to work at what we do!

salarsenッ said...

Very thought provoking post. I always offer my time up to God, writing or not. Do I believe some divine intervention is taking place each time I write? No. But I do believe my time is being blessed even when it doesn't feel like it. (Yeah, often lately.) For me, giving my time up kind of frees my mind, helps me see beyond myself and my flaws.

We all have talents. Some need more honing than others. I agree with you. The more I write, the better I become. Our effort and mindset has a lot to do with where we end up.

DEZMOND said...

can't say I could agree with Gilbert. That's just using some silly excuse to avoid responsibility.

Pk Hrezo said...

I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what Elizabeth says. However, i do, IMHO, believe she may be looking at it wrong. Yes, I believe in God and an outside power to the universe, but I don't believe we channel that power when we're creative. I believe when the brain is open, it can tap into amazing and limitless resources that are accessible to everyone. The trick is to keep our minds open and learn how to let go of the worldly thinking that ties us to earth. It's when we let go, that we hear whispers from the universe and our creative phsyche speaks to us.
That's not to speak anything blasphemous toward God. But I believe it may be blasphemous to say God is speaking "through" our creativity. I agree I think we are all born with different talents, and to deny them would be to deny God's gifts.
Elizabeth's points on the detriment of artists being because we take all the credit for ourselves, is part of that. We are the artists, but the "gift" is from God... not the actual dance or piece of work. I think our egos are what hurt ourselves as artists. Which is once again, the powers of the brain coming into play, accepting credit for the gift of talent all for ourselves, instead of giving thanks to God for the talent.

Old Kitty said...

I'm more inclined to think it's nurture rather than nature. I also am more inclined to believe the old saying "99 percent perspiration, 1 per cent inspiration". You can be a born genius I suppose but I tend to think humans strive and acheive through perseverance, hard work, many sacrifices and more!

Take care
x

Clarissa Draper said...

Does a force use me as a writer? Not in my case. If someone enjoys my book, I'm happy but I doubt my writing will have a real impact on the world -- it's just not the genre I write.

Jessica Bell said...

Definitely not. We create our own gifts by practicing. We chose. We do. We accomplish. Nuff said ;o) Great discussion!

Lydia K said...

I hate to be so egocentric, but when I write, it's me, all me. It takes effort, it takes a ton of practice, and even practicing to use my imagination.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I agree. I must have been born creative, observant and able to open my mind to a story's possibilities. But it's my choice to work on a story, to make that story the best it can be. (I guess that's the job part. :D) On the other hand, if I don't open myself up to the muse, she doesn't come. She finds someone else who's listening.

LTM said...

These are all great comments, and I think we're all on the same page here... I've emailed most~
@Laura--Eggzactly! And maybe this leads into that discussion some have about whether art follows life or life follows art, in which case, I suppose that could increase the responsibility level on the fiction writer, depending on where you fall~ :o)

@PK--I think you basically summed up what I was trying to say perfectly. Hubris = always bad. Thank you! :D

JB Lynn said...

Interesting discussion! (and so funny we're blogging about such similiar topics today!)

Elle Strauss said...

First off, thanks for the link! I posted Ms Gilbert's speech for exactly this reason, to spur conversation.

I don't actually agree with her philosophy 100% either. What I do take away is that it's unhealthy to get our identity out of what we do. I believe God is the ultimate creator, he created us and he gives all of us creative gifts. I won't go as far to say that everything we do as artists is an extension of his perfect creativity (though it's okay to say we've been inspired by him). My husband is a singer/songwriter. One thing that bothers him is when someone gets up to sing and says, God gave them this song. And then proceeds to sing a lame song. DH, would say, "That's the best God can do?" Of course not.

When I started writing I felt inspired to write, but my writing was well below par. It took years and years of practice to get to the place I am today, and I'm sure many more years of writing hard to keep getting better. I will say my creative potential is from God, but it's up to me to develop it.

That said, it's okay if I write badly, because being a writer isn't all that makes me, me. I can stand outside of the gift, not be stamped by it.

Lisa said...

I go back and forth on this. I think people have natural or God-given talents that they can work with, but in the end, you have to actually put in the work to get the results (as much as I wish I had written a best-selling novel, God isn't going to come down from heaven and start typing it for me).

It's like the old joke: John, who was in financial difficulty, walked into a church and started to pray. "Listen God," John said, "I know I haven't been perfect but I really need to win the lottery. I don't have a lot of money. Please help me out." He left the church, a week went by, and he hadn't won the lottery, so he walked into a synagogue. "Come on, God," he said, "I really need this money. My mom needs surgery and I have bills to pay. Please let me win the lottery." He left the synagogue, a week went by, and he didn't win the lottery. So, he went to a mosque and started to pray again. "You're starting to disappoint me, God," he said. "I've prayed and prayed. If you just let me win the lottery, I'll be a better person. I don't have to win the jackpot, just enough to get me out of debt. I'll give some to charity, even. Just let me win the lottery." John thought this did it, so he got up and walked outside.
The clouds opened up and a booming voice said, "John, you have to buy a lottery ticket first."

Colene Murphy said...

I had a friend tell me how he was so irritated when people credit a higher power for things they did and didn't give themselves any of the credit for making something awesome. What I told him was, to me, it isn't being grateful for the thing that they did as much as being grateful for the fact that they were given the talent to accomplish it. I didn't give myself the ability to create, paint, write, imagine things any more than I gave myself the ability to see. But that's just my opinion on the matter. To each their own!

LTM said...

@JBL--isn't that weird? Great minds... ;p Also, really liking everyone's input~ <3

~Nicole Ducleroir~ said...

ooh! Good question! I'm not a religious person, but I have a strong spiritual belief system. I won't go into it here -- Lord, you'd think I was cuckoo, for sure! But on this issue, I have to say I believe something divine happens when the story is flowing out of me. It doesn't happen every time I sit down to write (unfortunately!), but I often feel like I'm channeling something bigger than myself. That I am merely a tool being wielded by someone or something else. And I LOVE that feeling!!

The Survival Mama said...

hmmmm...that's some serious food for thought.

Since I write suspense with blood and sex (not always in the same scene) I don't like to link God to my work. Do I think he gave me the gift? Yes. Am I using it for a higher purpose? Not really sure, but I'm inclined to say No.

I really like your line that "the divine act occurs when we're born" I think there's a lot of truth in that....

Swinging by to say hi from the blogfest, and follow so I don't miss anything!
The Survival Mama

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Ah, cool post! So glad I stumbled across your blog - new follower BTW:) Hmm, not sure what to think about this concept per se but I do believe we're all given gifts. Who gave them to us and why - that I have no idea.

KarenG said...

I can find inspiration in everything I do not just writing. In fact lately there hasn't been much inspiration in my writing at all! Maybe because it's being channeled into my cookie business right now?

LTM said...

@Lindsay--I hear ya! This started from a fellow blogger's post, and you can see where we are now. It's great to get everyone's insights, and welcome to yours~ :o) <3

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, my beliefs are so hard to explain, but I swear to you, It's never even occurred to me to think about it in terms of my writing. I think in concrete terms, I completely agree with you... there may be some inspired moments... supposedly the Q'uran came to an uneducated man who dictated the entire thing with no background or reason he should have known any of the stuff in it. If that is true, rather than the way stories alter things, then that would indeed seem inspired.

And sometimes the story does just FLOW, almost without effort, but I know to much about brain firing and can recognize the pieces were THERE--I just had to get out of my way...

Mostly though, the fact that we improve and learn just by doing more, trying harder, committing to the craft... And I actually believe most people COULD write, if they had the inclination to do as much of it as we are driven to do... those of us who WRITE though, start young, do it a lot and so have many years more experience than same-age peers. Maybe some of those teens publishing good books have some special gift. Me? I think I just have the drive.

Angela Felsted said...

I feel like the act of creating, in and of itself is religious. It may not be that way for other people, but it is for me. Even when my ideas turn out to be total junk and I can't get them off the ground, I still feel tremendously energized while working on them. I love how my head swims with ideas until I have the courage to put one on paper. That's where the religion comes in for me. Creation is just beautiful.

Patti said...

I agree, like others do, that you may have some inspired moments, but not everything I write is inspired. In fact, lots of times it's tedious.

Talli Roland said...

Thank GOD you said it. Now this might sound a bit bitchy (everything I say today seems to come out bitchy!), but I don't like it when people say they can't write without their muse, or that their muse has gone on holiday. Um... writing is hard work! It's more often a slog than not, and you don't need a bloody muse to get words down on the page. Sure you might have some inspired monents, but it's more than likely down to your brain soldiering through than the mystical nature of writing.

Rant over.

*drinks wine*

Myne Whitman said...

Great post and lovely comments. I agree with you on the point of divinity being when we're created with those talents. I think a lot of people ascribe and acknowledge the impact of their beliefs on their works in order to share such beliefs and show how much it means to them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Leigh .. life's a story .. a history of our lives, so everything we produce is part of that process .. it's great that the next generation do the same .. and you can see it in your kids.

Thanks - Hilary

Katie Mills said...

I agree with most of what's been said but I have to admit- there's a point when I'm writing my first draft where I feel much more like a specatator than someone writing the story. It's like watching a movie and it's very odd. I don't think it has anything to do with god than it does with just letting your imagination and sense of creation run rampid but in any case, I can't get that feeling anywhere else or with anything else.

LTM said...

You're right! Thanks, Hilary!!! :o) <3

Tracy said...

When it comes to the actual writing. I don't think there's anything at play other than me doing the thing I was probably born with the right creativity and temperment to do.

There are other steps in the process where I wonder whether God or the Fates (or whatever you want to call it) have a hand in the matter. But the writing is just me.

Stephen Tremp said...

I don't believe in any of that stuff, although sometimes I wonder at how easily I write killings and assassinations and all. Then I have to ask myself, "Do you think there's anything wrong with me?"

Morgan said...

It's hard for me not to attribute something mystical to writing. Sometimes I feel like a story doesn't even come from my brain-- I don't remember planning it or thinking about it-- but then suddenly I'm just writing it. However, despite whatever magical writing fairies I believe in, I agree that if you put too much praise on the "magic" or writing, you forget that the actual talent and hard work comes from the writer.

LTM said...

@Stephen--it means you have a very vivid imagination and a way with words! :D

@Morgan--Yeah, and it's good to keep a balanced view of things. The imagination and subconscious pull from all over the place, I find. I'll remember something that happened or that I heard about from years ago and see echos in something I've written. So who knows... :o) <3

Ella said...

I don't agree with her. I started reading her book, then ended up watching the movie. She took papers and copied them, when asked not to take them off the premises. Was this a divine act or maybe God spoke through her. No, she wanted to put it in her book. Gifts arrive in many forms,
I think we are instruments of grace. When the gifts do arrive and we use them, but the burden lies in all we do and in our human form. I can say thank you for my God given talent, but do I burden him/her if I don't get it right. No, don't buy into this thought process. We work with what we have, lots of people have made it, due to more than talent, timing, fate the right place. I know talented people, who haven't made it?! The rhyme n' reason is part of the roller coaster of life.