Happy Halloween! A whole month has gone by and I haven’t written a thing here on Gydle. It’s not the funk, thank goodness, that has passed. I’m back in the saddle, writing away. I had a very relaxing vacation and knitted a pair of mittens. I am now a mitten-knitter, something to which I have always aspired.
Today as I was driving, I caught a snippet of one of my favorite TED talks, the one in which Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame talks about the nature of genius and the dark side of success. I quoted her talk a while ago in a post on Inspiration.
I took it as a sign.
The important thing about the creative process, she says, is showing up day after day. You have to do your part, and trust that whatever inspiration or creative genius or whatever you want to call it will come and visit you at some point. You have to make the choice to put yourself out there and create something.
It’s actually a lot harder than I thought it would be. I have all kinds of irrational fears. What if people reading this think it’s autobiographical – that the neurotic character is actually me, even if it isn’t? Will I have any friends left? What if my family hates it? What if it’s a big fat failure and no one wants to read it?
Fear is a real creativity-killer. If you’re paralyzed by fear, you can’t show up to work. After months of being blocked by my fears, a few weeks ago I led a mutiny. I lined them up and made them walk the plank. I said to myself, say the impossible happens and I actually finish this book . Say one day it’s actually printed. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like I’m going to die or anything.
The worst thing that could happen is that I could be misunderstood. Or that people will think it’s really bad. And if you think about it for a microsecond, you realize that’s pretty much a given. So I decided to get over it now and be done with it.
How’s this for an antidote to fear – faith? Faith that maybe you won’t be misunderstood, that your work will be seen in the larger light of the human story and not the little pinprick of another’s ego. Faith that the people who matter to you will see that this is a story that has to be told, even its not-so-nice bits. Maybe especially the not-so-nice bits. Faith that someone, somewhere, will think it’s worth reading.
What does this have to do with Halloween? Well, fiction is basically an extended version of Halloween. You create a bunch of characters and weave a tale to go with them, something larger than life, something that distills the important bits and makes them stand out, backlit like a good jack’o’lantern. Halloween is all about exaggeration, excess, disguise. It’s about permitting yourself to let go of ego for a minute and step into someone (or something) else’s shoes. Fiction is, too. When I’m writing, I let go of myself and inhabit the characters. I live in their houses, wear their hair, have their children, feel their pain. I leave my everyday life and enter an alternative reality, woven from bits and pieces of my experience that are exaggerated, distilled, redistributed and changed.
It’s kind of scary, yes. But this is a good kind of spooky. We’ll just have to wait and see if it’s a trick or a treat.