Saturday, March 29, 2008

It's a gift... and a curse

For those of you who are fans of the TV show "Monk," you may recognize the way that Detective Adrian Monk describes his abilities. In a pseudo-modest voice he intones "It's a gift... and a curse."

I've been feeling the same way about my writing lately. It's definitely a gift. People respond so eagerly to stories. They want to wring my neck for keeping them waiting for the next installment of whatever I'm working on. I have friends and family members who are still waiting for me to finish the romance novel I started in 2004. What amazes me is that they still even remember the characters' names and care about what happens to them.

The creative process itself is completely mysterious to me. I don't really know why sometimes I have good ideas and sometimes I don't, or where these people come from that live inside my head. My characters are as real to me as the people I live with every day. I remember hearing a quote from Michaelangelo about sculpting, that he just removed all the little bits of rock that didn't belong there, to reveal the figure inside.

The problem with this - the curse - is that I can never fully live in the present world. My stories are always there in the back of my mind, and as soon as I have a little quiet time they come to the front and start begging to be written. Since most of the time I can't sit down and write, they just rattle around in my brain playing scenes over and over, a little differently each time as the plot and characters fine-tune themselves. The only way to make it stop is to either write it down, which only causes me to start thinking about the next scene, or to ignore it so long that the ideas burn themselves out. (This is what happened with the romance novel.) I recently said to my husband, "I wonder what it would be like to live in only one world at a time." His reply was, "Well, you'll never know!" This was revealing; after ten years of marriage he finally understands!

My friend Michelle Gregory recently went to the Mt. Hermon Christian writer's conference and wrote this on her blog: "It was encouraging to see that there are many other people in this world who have stories and characters living in their heads, perhaps even keeping them up at night."


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