If art imitates life, does that mean that life is my muse?
One of many actually.
When I first started writing in middle school, it wasn’t long before I had a moment of clarity regarding my work – it’s not original. I’m not being overly-critical of myself here, just that I came to realize what my role as a writer was in some ways like that of an artist – at least my view of artists, coming from someone who would have loved to be a painter but just couldn’t embrace that particular form of media.
What I realized is that words are overused. The world is so big and there are so many languages and there have been so many people to have lived this crazy life that anything I could express was most likely expressed by someone else already. So why even bother? Because even if someone has said it before, that doesn’t mean my audience has heard/read it before. At the risk of sounding off my nut, I came to embrace an almost ethereal muse. I would meditate on this idea that everything has been said before and then just let the words come to me, almost as if someone else was talking through me. Many times, it was like I could view all of the words, and I was picking them out to arrange them in a number of sequences that made sense to me – almost like an artist will take many different colors of paint and mix them together to create a painting. I wrote in this method for so long that it became as if the poems and stories already existed, I was just giving them a voice.
I no longer meditate on this idea…much. But the method has in some ways continued to live on within me. When I first started writing my first novel, “The Source,” the characters took on a life of their own. I would sit down to write and scenes would develop in a way I never expected, characters actually shocking me with the things they said and did. After so many years of not seriously writing, this experience amazes me again and again every time it happens. And if it doesn’t happen, I start to wonder if the plot is really going in the direction it should.
I now understand when novelists like Laurell K. Hamilton often refer to their characters as if they are real people. Life is not just our muse. Our muses are living entities that we “literarily” give birth to and often refer to as loved ones.
Does this make us crazy? Maybe. It definitely makes us good storytellers because a good story comes from someone who lives comfortably in her own imagination.
I’m not going to worry about any possible pathology until I start preferring my characters over real people, and on some days, that becomes way too difficult to resist.