Moira the Explorer: BOOKS
January 12, 2012 • 600 views
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I love to read. I enjoy a good non-fiction book, but fiction is what will undoubtedly keep me up late at night, turning pages, hoping for more. When I was younger I would read any book with a good story. If there was magic or a wizard involved, I was in. However as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate fiction outside the realm of fantasy. I can now love fiction for the reality it provides. For the context it gives to the world we inhabit. However the question of creative writing arises: is writing an inspired exercise, or is it more rational and calculated?
As I’ve matriculated up the rungs of English education I started to learn more about the literary features a writer incorporates into their work. English became about how writers use metaphors, or allusions to create meaning. I started to believe very firmly that a writer does certain things on purpose. That everything is done for a reason.
This was a principle I found applied to my own writing. I predominantly write poetry. For me writing a poem is a slow, cogitated process. I always think before using alliteration, or deciding the order in which the words appear in a stanza. I decide if I want my poem to rhyme. When writing poetry, words do not magically appear on the page, beautifully construed. I have to work to try to get them there. Often it doesn’t work.
Last spring I went to go see one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri, speak at Bryn Mawr College. I have read everything Lahiri has published. I love her full descriptions of tiny aspects of life. Her characters have habits and thoughts and quirks so small and so natural that it seems as if they have no option but to be alive. At one point during the evening Lahiri took questions from the audience. One reader asked her why most of her protagonists were male. Another asked her about the symbolism of water and the ocean in her novels. To every one of these (what I thought to be very valid and intriguing questions) Lahiri had a noncommittal answer. She responded that she didn’t really know what water symbolized, she just often felt inspired to include it in her works. She seemed to insinuate that she simply wrote, and the greatness of her writing merely emerged organically.
I was greatly affronted by this explanation. I felt it almost minimized the incredible work that writers put into their writing; it undermined the whole difficulty of the process. The Great Gatsby would not be The Great Gatsby if not for Fitzgerald’s consistently delicate descriptions of Daisy. Descriptions that were written that way for a reason.
But then I started to think about inspiration. Because inspiration does exist. And it would be foolish of me to posit that I know where everything I have put on paper has come from. Sometimes a beautiful phrase will simply appear in my head. Or a story idea will emerge from my pillow as I sleep. And I know for a fact my best writing comes—inexplicably–when it is about to rain.
Creative writing does require thinking and planning. But it is still creative. The inspiration incites writing, and provides spots of brilliance along the way. However one also has to be able to craft one’s own brilliance, and tie it to whatever the gods of inspiration have bestown.