Monday, January 25, 2010

What Price Art?

Recently, Nicole said something that spawned a rather wandering chain of thought in me.  She was talking about the post I wrote entitled The Hidden Danger of Epic Tales, and said something like, “It is the first story you try to tell that inspires you to write in the first place.”

My brain, as usual, worked too slowly for me to pick up on that train of thought and pursue a conversation about it at that time.  Instead the idea planted itself in the back of my thoughts, somewhere between the mold and the mushrooms, and began to germinate.

Beginning in the Middle

I doubt that many people, when they first start to write, think of their story from beginning to end.  I certainly didn’t.  Instead it starts with a character, or small set of characters, and some scene that seems compelling at the time.  An idea half formed, with no beginning or end.  A theme or genre may be in mind, some grand ideas, but nothing concrete.

Taking the compelling first thoughts and turning them into a story takes time, so much time.  Time spent alone, with a computer or pad of paper, doodling ideas like an artist might randomly draw images hoping that art will emerge. 

The Price Paid

Most of that time is totally wasted.  Hours spent that will never come back, putting down words that are unworthy of the blank page they spoiled. 

Why do it?  Why not go do something more enjoyable?  Why not spend it with your family?  Why not call up friends and go out for the evening? 

Because the story will not let you rest.  Because you can’t stop wondering what will happen next in the tale you alone are trying to tell, and which you alone may read.  Because you are convinced that with the right words you can describe the images in your imagination, and nothing will detract you from finding those words.

The Profit Earned

It is not the completed work that writers strive for, so much as the sparkling sentence.  Don’t get me wrong, a completed work is the ultimate goal. 

But what drags you through the long nights and repeated attempts to write the same scene or chapter are certain moments that make you think, “Did I write that?” 

It is those moments when you see a few words, a handful of sentences; a paragraph, scene, or chapter and think, “I really like that.  I did that. I wrote that.” 

With those words you feel a justifiable pride.  At that moment you don’t care if anyone else ever reads one word of what you wrote.  The long effort was worth every moment it took to achieve.  You bask for a few seconds in a wonderful feeling.

Then you start trying to write the next sentence, paragraph, scene, or chapter.  And the frustrating hunt for the right words starts over again.  The feeling fades, but your remember it well.  And as the long hours pass you know, or at least hope, that you will again find the right words and experience that heady rush once again.

Later stories you might write for money, or other less noble reasons.  Some you may start and then abandon.  But the first story you write for the love of writing, for the want of skills greater than you currently posses,  is a special story that changes you in ways immeasurable.

It is the story you can’t walk away from, because it simply won’t let you. 

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