Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beg, Borrow, and Steal

There's a line from a movie you may or may not have seen, that goes, "There's something you have to understand about art. It comes from somewhere."

Where does your art come from?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote poems and Christmas plays and stories for Reflections. However, when I reached college, somehow I became convinced that I couldn't write. Sure, I could turn out a mean essay for my Crit Lit class, but I couldn't write write. I wasn't creative enough. I wasn't blessed with a big enough imagination.

Then, a few years ago, I started a family blog, and I remembered how much I enjoyed writing. Like, writing writing. And so I took the plunge, clinging to the only real creative writing advice I had ever learned, which was "write what you know." I wrote a short story about a woman who's husband was in law school. Nearly everything in that story was from something I had experienced, heard, witnessed, or read. Since then, I've continued to write, but my strategy hasn't really changed. My stories are comprised of things I've begged, borrowed, and stolen. I'm not creative - I just have fast hands.

But it is something of a wonder how, when you decide to write, little bits and pieces you've filed away in your mind start to come together. Start to form something new. The spark for my current story came from a bumper sticker I happened to see one day on the freeway. Ideas had been swirling around in my mind, but that bumper sticker pulled them all together.

There is something dreamlike about the process of writing. In Shadow Catcher, Marianne Wiggins writes, "How the average person dreams is pretty much how the average novelist puts a page together." We writers grasp for those fragmented, grainy thoughts and images, patch them into narrative, and hope it all means what we think it should.


  1. I some of your beautiful writing on Shelly Brown's blog--and I think you are VERY creative. "Dreamlike" is a great way to describe writing. I do feel like I'm piecing things together.

  2. Kim, is that the line from 'Joe vs. the Volcano!?' :) :)

    I love this,

    'I'm not creative - I just have fast hands.'

    I think all that's needed here is to broaden your terms. Many writers feel there are words and processes that breed exclusivity-- and that they (we) are somehow out from under those umbrellas.

    Writing, creating, is so, so difficult. Because the best writing really is the gathering of fragments and watching them come to life as something that is so far greater than the sum of its parts-- and this is the part we don't really control. We 'take part' and we may even (difficult term) submit to the process-- and we certainly create in part, but the whole picture is just way bigger than our current limited incarnation. Leaping into that wider space is scary, especially to the ego, and a lot of the times, it good and truly hurts.

    Keep those hands roving, esteemed colleague and friend. Quickly, quickly,

    Much love and encouragement to you, this day.

  3. Lovely thoughts! Isn't it funny what will spark an idea? And usually they come when I'm least expecting it.

  4. I love how you write about writing.
    And, I can only hope next post will contain an inspiring thought from Anchorman. : )

  5. How much am I loving the fact that you're a regular Wednesday blog poster now? Quite a lot. Regular is one of those things that all of us can aspire to, if you know what I'm saying. :)

  6. Curtis - Yeah - you could use a dose of regularity yourself :)
    Janel - It's in the works. Anchorman is nothing if not inspiring. (Milk was a bad choice, etc)
    Stacey - I know, the sources of inspiration can be quite strange (ie, Anchorman)
    Suze - Thanks, as always, for your encouragement. And yes, of course, the line is from Joe - it's one of my favs.
    Angie - And you, as always, are too kind :)

  7. Well said! And I agree - writing is purely magical! What a fun world we live in! :)

  8. I've been taking fiber to help with regularity, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. :)

    Speaking of regular, are you doing the NaNoWriMo thing? I'm curious if you're drafting 1,666 words/day on your new novel, and I'm anxious to read it, of course. Hope all is well, and I hope this fiber kicks in soon. Peace out, g.

  9. No! I'm lucky if I can get that many words a week! Are you? Ditto - where is that third chapter, by the way? :)

  10. I never thought of myself as a creative person, but something happens when I put a pen to paper; I turn into someone else entirely. I often wonder which person I am: the non-creative Emily or the writer Emily. I like to think I'm both.
    Great post!

  11. Uh... i love this post, my "fast hands" friend. Did you see what stole from you and Bubba this halloween? I can totally relate!!!

  12. "There is something dreamlike about the process of writing. In Shadow Catcher, Marianne Wiggins writes, "How the average person dreams is pretty much how the average novelist puts a page together." I love that! I came over from Stacy Henrie's blog. Glad I did! :)

  13. I want to read that first story you wrote!