Most of the time, we don’t really think of writing as an “art”. Sure, it’s an art form (what does that really mean, anyway? Writing is a form of art…who even talks like that anymore…). But writing as art? Save that word for the ones with brushes, pencils, and instruments. I’ve been a writer and reader for as long as I can remember. I also paint, I can draw, I love to sing, and I’m teaching myself to play the keyboard – but writing? It’s my favorite of all the arts. Although, it’s not people thinking of writing as “not an art” that bothers me…it’s that they don’t understand why we as writers write in the first place.
I was having a conversation the other day where it came up that I’m a writer. So we talked a little bit about what I write, how many novels I’ve started, and just what my stories are about. Then came the clincher for me. “Oh, but you just make it all up.”
Because my novels are yet to be published, a lot of people don’t really know that some of my plots can be a little wacked…in the “where the heck did that come from?” sort of way. In fact, that’s usually what I say when it comes out on screen or paper. Where the heck did that come from? Nearly every author or writer will tell you they’ve had a similar experience with their stories and characters just “coming to them”, including J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. So how can it possibly be that we just make all of it up?
It’s true, telling stories is an age-old tradition that we still reenact around modern-day campfires and as games in school – in that sense, yes of course we make stories up. But when you’re writing by the seat of your pants and you don’t have anything outlined, maybe not even have plans to write the dang book in the first place…how can someone honestly say there isn’t something bigger than us at work here? I’m not going to go all woo-woo New Agey on you and call it the ethers…or the Universe…or the cosmos or whatever (actually, that just makes me think of Plankton)…but I do know that my stories come from, for lack of a more ingenious way to say it, somewhere else.
The truth is that the very art of writing, the writing itself, is what we “make up”. As an author, we are only telling stories, sharing these characters with whoever wants to spend some pages with them. But how we tell those stories – the words we use, the voice we choose – is entirely up to us.
But not all writers write this way – or at least, some claim they don’t. But I know that, with myself, I love writing not because it’s something I can control but because it’s something I can’t control. For a moment or more, my biggest worries are those of my characters as they shout around in my head. (Please don’t think of me as a crazy Joan of Ark, hearing voices in her head. It’s not like that.) But what are we really writing if it doesn’t live and breathe on its own? And if it doesn’t live and breathe in our own minds as writers, then in whose mind will it?
Of course what’s special about writing is the sharing – that rollercoaster-ride experience we had while writing can now be felt by our readers. It’s a 50/50 deal. I have an author friend who, when asked how to pronounce her main character’s name asks right back how you might say it. So maybe what I should be asking is does it really matter if we make it all up?
My fellow writers and authors, what do you think? Have you had the experience of your writing/stories/characters just coming to you?
Tanya Marcy is a writer and artist with a love for marketing, online media, and the independent arts. She blogs at stickTnotes, where you can find her story tips and tricks, and her ideas about being a creative artist in today’s changing world. Check out her own art at deviantART and sample her writing at Figment