Writerly Stuff: Thoughts on the Creative Process

            “Neither man nor God is going to tell me what to write.” – James T. Farrell, author of the Studs Lonigan trilogy.  That sounds high and mighty.  It is also naïve.  Creativity does not happen in a vacuum.  There are external forces at work.

            Christians might talk about being nudged by God or the divine or being inspired.  Secularists, even atheists might also talk about inspiration, though from another source.  That source might be nature or music or some mythical muse, but the point is creativity requires an external component. 

            All at once, something is seen in a new way.  It is serendipity.  There is an eureka moment, a kind of epiphany when the proverbial light bulb goes off.  Just like a story, there must be a spark to get things rolling, and that spark must be strong enough and sustained enough to see the project to completion. 

            Maybe Farrell never got his spark from the divine or from man, but I can assure you he did not create ex-nihilo.  The only thing that comes out of nothing is nothing.

            On the other hand, clearly there is also an internal component to creativity.  This is what bubbles up from our subconscious or unconscious mind.  It invariably looks very much like us, and if I may speak of writing for a moment, it is us that goes down on paper.

            That may be why so many writers treat their manuscripts like children and feel obliged to defend them to the death.  It is ourselves exposed on the page, in the painting, in the performance, in the building of the future, and any writer or artist or creative soul who tells you otherwise is either lying or ignorant.

            Creativity may need an external spark, but it never remains untouched by us – the creators.  Indeed, as I said, we invariably make it look like us.  Still, I would say creativity happens when something external and something internal bond in a new and unprecedented way.        What do you think?

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