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“A Symmetry of Surprises” : Thoughts on Writing, Writers, and People

from Flickr user Keith Williamson

I generally write the post first, then pick the picture.  But today, I had these two great quotations about writing, and couldn’t figure out how to get there.

So I went shopping at Flickr for images using “writing” as a keyword.

I ended up with these fountain pens writing without human intervention because I think a couple of things are true:

First, writers experience an out-of-body thing as they write sometimes.  I call it going to the zone (that’s what it feels like to me: being on another plane of focus or consciousness).  I used to get the same sort of feeling when I drew from observation.  I have heard bunches of writers say that they don’t know how they do it, just that it’s compulsiveness, that they can’t stop.

Sometimes, writers even deny responsibility for their creations: they talk about it as a bolt of lightening, or as something that is received.  Stephen King talks about storytelling as excavating–dusting off an artifact into which the artist breathes life.

Though I am presently unable to access her book for an exact quotation, my friend Carolyn says that genius occurs at the intersection of the spiritual and creative, and she reminds us that we have become culturally accustomed to confusing the notion of genius with savant; Carolyn says that everyone has genius, it is not some special thing, and anybody can find her own genius.  Her book is called Awesome Your Life: The Artist’s Antidote to Suffering Genius.  I haven’t finished it myself, but it’s delicious so far, I recommend it.

I think that writing is a process of exploring genius, both the spiritual and the intellectual bits of it.

Second, every writer I know and have ever met is fascinated by other people.  This fascination is visceral.  After watching a fairly stupid TV show, I was reading a bit about microexpressions on the internet (a quick google scholar search shows that these are being studied with regard to politics, deception, law enforcement, etc), and got to thinking about my own intense fascination with other humans, and my ability to read their manner or listen closely to their language and figure out that something is bothering them or that they’re hiding a strong feeling.  I like to watch people argue, kiss, eat, discuss, dance.

While I was at the residency, something for which I have been ridiculed personally was natural in our group:  When observing people, we made up back stories for them based on how they walked or talked or ate.  We would trace them back to their childhoods and speculate about their jobs, how many lovers they’d had, what major event in their lives brought them to that point, and after just a few minutes, it felt like we were speaking truth.

I don’t know about you, but that’s exciting to me.

And that’s why I want to share these two quotations from Robert Mooney who’s one of the Wilkes faculty. He also teaches at Washington College His book, Father of the Man is on my to-read list based on the fact that on the fiction panel, he admonished us to:

“Be a deep sea diver of the human psyche.”

And said that:

“I just travel into the dark… A lot of fiction is a symmetry of surprises.”

What quotations have inspired or affirmed you as an artist, writer, person, scholar, soul?

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One comment on ““A Symmetry of Surprises” : Thoughts on Writing, Writers, and People

  1. Going into the zone. Yes, that describes me when I get deep into a story I am writing. I leave my milkroom/studio in my house and fly across the years and the miles and end up in the Canyonlands of the desert Southwest, as I did in The Storyteller’s Bracelet, or the Allegheny Mountains, as I did in The Cabin. And coming back from the zone is a tricky business; if I do it too quickly, I get very disoriented. Lovely post, April.

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