The Space for Paradoxes in Writing
I just finished reading Liz Gilbert’s latest book Big Magic. A big THANK YOU for writing it.
At twenty six I’ve written (published some) short stories and am currently trudging through my first novel. In Big Magic, Liz shares an important concept for writers to realize: the space we creators must make for paradoxes. I think this is going to help me get through my first try at first novel, so I thought I'd share below some of the paradoxes she covers.
Needing space to love each sentence / to remove or “kill your darlings”. Liz elegantly points out how she treats each sentence as if it is the most important one, the most elegant version of that sentence she can create. But then you might have to kill it. That’s okay. Accept this paradox. Take away what you must to make the story great.
To carry your inspiration with your fear. Much of the book explains how creators can deal with their inspiration and also deal with their fear. Liz believes you have to make room for both, but you can never let fear take the wheel. Fear can be good, but it can’t drive your creative choices or you’ll never get far into your creating. It can be hard to accept and carry both, but we must.
Write for yourself, but edit for others. When we are creating it is for ourselves. We read it to ourselves in our head. We tell the story to ourselves. The topics or themes are often obessions we love and care about. But the story must be interrupted by others. This is a paradox in itself and one that must be addressed often in the editing phase. Did that make sense to you? Great. Does it work outside of your head? Will the reader get it? If not it's got to be fixed.
Knowing the truth as creator / interpretation of truth as audience. A similar paradox but taking this a step further, though we might edit as best we can to send out our message to the world, we’re not in charge of it anymore when it’s released. We have no idea how the audience will interpret the story. That’s okay. We’ve done our best. It’s up to the reader now to digest and apply their own truths and meanings to the tale.
While editing my first book of work these paradoxes are helping me to realize that though we can do our best we can never know the outcome. We can only strive to do our best.
Each morning I wake up and try to squeez in a half hour or hour of editing. I battle a flurry of emotions, feeling wonderful and excited one morning or angry and disappointed the next. I am busy trudging through the sloppiness to get to the show, to display full picture of what I’m producing, and each day carries a new emotion with it. It's easy to love and to hate the process.
But, much of the main message from this book, we can choose how we embrace the process. Choose to love it. Love the work, do it or find another way to create and enjoy your life.
I’m determined to finish this first larger piece of work and just naive enough to believe it will all turn out the way it should.