So this week I'm going to do something a little different. Patreon Patron (AKA Patronus*) Brian suggested the following topics for flash fiction: "Non-binary decision, free fall, what does it mean to create?" And while I love the idea of using these in fiction, I wanted to write about at least two of them in essay format. So this week, in lieu of 1000 words of flash fiction, I'm going to be taking on the topic of what it means to create.
Creation is... well, for one thing it's weird. It's fucked up. There's this thing that doesn't exist and it's in your mind. And the mind is that part of your being that can't be seen. You can't point to it on an MRI or an x-ray. Yet you keep all your stuff there. Your ideas, your beliefs, your memories, hopes, dreams (literal and figurative), movie quotes and 8th grade horror stories. They're all there in your mind. It's where you keep YOU. And no two minds are alike. Mine, for example, is best visualized as a Suessian high rise condo. My characters live there, my friends stop by to visit, and all the various Vox Crania run the place. The security team has its place up in the penthouse (under the watchful gaze of the Jagrafess and Simon Pegg's portrayal of The Editor, of course) and Heart & Brain hang out at the bar most of the time.
Yes, there's a bar.
My mind is a strange and spectacular place like unto that one awesome room in the Wonka Factory spliced with Avenger's Tower. Occasionally, with the twisted alchemy that is life, something will come in through the revolving doors of said condo, and mix up with the primordial sludge from which it is made, and bam!
There's an IDEA! It's something that is a non-existent seed that lives in that place we've already established can't be proven to exist except that you believe it does. (And you've just realized that you invented your own Matrix.)
Creation, for me, is taking that seed and putting it in the window box in my brain condo.
So, this seed...
It goes into the soil, such as it is, where I water it and give it sunlight and such. From there? Well the metaphor can stay the same...the seed will either grow or it won't and when it pops up from the soil we see what it is. And it might bloom or it might not. It might be an orchid--something delicately beautiful and difficult to maintain. It might be the dandelion--commonly thought to be a weed but appreciated by small children and whimsical adults. It might end up being a beanstalk or something else huge that grows from a seed. I don't know when that seed goes into the ground what it's going to amount to.
That's one of the risky bits of creation. You don't know if it's going to "work". You aren't sure that the efforts you're spending, the resources and hours you're putting into nurturing that seed will actually pay off. When you break out the Play-Doh and start squishing it around, your mind says "This is going to be as beautiful as Michaelangelo's Pieta" and it turns out being an amorphous pink glitter blob. Creation is not a sure thing. You might think you know what you're trying to say in a story but a group of readers glean the exact opposite.
It's maddening! It's terrifying! It's exhilarating!
Creation is totally amazeballs and also wiggity wiggity whack! (--the great poets Kriss and Kross.) You're consumed by this noncorporeal thing. Your thoughts wander to it while you're talking with friends, driving, operating heavy machinery. Everything in your physical existence comes back to this thing that only you can see or hear. You're laughing about jokes made by figments of your imagination. You're shipping people who don't actually exist and wondering how you can orchestrate events in a world in which normal physics do not apply. The THING takes over all of your background processes!
And then someone who can barely count his nipples ragdolls you around your brain condo with helpful feedback that completely makes you question your work, your life choices and the parachute pants you got for your 8th birthday. (So I'm told.)
That is creation.
Re-creation, revision and reshaping all happen later, and they're part of the process, but actual creation is this strange thing where something that didn't exist previously lives in a place that only you can get into. It's messed up! Like actual pregnancy. You can't see what's going on in there and the creation is completely changing everything in your life.
In movies (and sometimes in life) creation is treated like this holy event. It's not unlike a religious Mystery, like transubstantiation or the Virgin Birth.
Remember that scene in Dogma where God/Alanis comes along with her silver clothes? She looks around the devastation and as the camera pans around only Her face, the world is restored. And when She saves Bethany from death? She places her hands on Bethany's mortal wound, the shot cuts away to the awe-stricken faces of our erstwhile prophets--Jay & Silent Bob--and other than a golden glow and some dramatic vocalizing from the choirs of Heaven, we don't come back to Bethany until she's shooting up from the ground taking her first breath.
I get that this was a conscious choice about God's ways being mysterious, but it applies to artistic creation as well. We don't see creation. Sure, with visual artists like painters and sculptors, a movie will show a montage of said artist working their mojo. But it's a series of frenzied cuts and sweat and silent grunting. The labor pains. You can't watch the whole thing (because it's lengthy, toilsome and lonely work in the real world).
We don't see the actual moment of magical conception. Because you can't. That moment always happens behind the closed doors of your brain condo (or mind palace if you're nasty, nooch). So in movies it's either a montage or it's represented as a literal flash of inspiration--literal light bulb moment--that undoubtedly leads to a montage with a gripping Hans Zimmer soundtrack. (I'm looking at you A Beautiful Mind.)
To wax poetic, the transformations of moths and butterflies happen inside a chrysalis, away from prying eyes. Back to our vegetation analogy, the seed does its biggest work beneath the soil. The edits and changes (blooming) happen above ground.
So what I'm saying is that all artists are cave-dwelling gods and you should shower us with chai, chocolate and money. Or we might be weeping angels who, when you blink, syphon your life force to create masterpieces. Take your pick.
*Like what you read? Want to suggest something for me to write, be it fiction or non? Want early and exclusive access to new work? Want to shower me with chai, chocolate and money? Consider becoming a Patronus!