Monthly Archives: August 2014

Quoth C.S. Lewis: Made for Another World

 

 

In context, this quote from Mere Christianity probably refers to a soul yearning for God and His kingdom. (I say “probably” because I haven’t actually had the pleasure of reading that one yet. Seriously recommend Screwtape Letters though. I digress.)

However, I also think it refers to creative people, yearning for things that don’t exist in this world, and creating them.

Or, you know, it might mean psychopaths who traipse around town in their everyday clothes with regal robes and gold crowns thrown on. I’m leaning toward the heart of creative people personally, but hey, if you like that interpretation best, whatever paddles your canoe.

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Categories: Wise Words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Artist and the Scientist, and the Secret of Balancing Them

There are many sides to writing. It can’t be confined. Some call it an art; some call it a science. So which is it?

Writing requires creativity and vision. You’ll need open eyes to look at the world, to see what it looks like on the face of it, to see what it looks like underneath, and to see what it looks like inside of yourself. An artist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of stories to write, because all around them everything they see has a thousand aspects, and a million ideas inside it. You need to be able to look at things from all these different angles. Sometimes, writing requires some degree of omnipotence to keep an eye on all the thoughts coming together—and sometimes you just pull back and let them flow into place.

Writing requires dimension and precision. You have to know what you’re writing about, and how; you need to understand the subject and how to effectively approach it and describe it. You need to know what you’re seeing and how to get it down on paper according to your vision, to use that vision to its fullest potential. You need to know how to produce an effect. A scientist could sit in their yard for a lifetime and never run out of subjects to categorize and monitor, because they could identify every tree and weed and bug and bird and spend the rest of their lives recording their lifecycles and the changes wrought in them by the seasons and the years.

The fact is, writing is both an art and a science. You’ll need balance—more than anything. You’ll need to know when to think and when to feel. You’ll need to understand when to let your tender, sentimental nature take over, and when to be cold and calculating. Give yourself over completely to the artist and you’ll end up with chaos—yield to the scientific side and you’ll end up with sterile, insipid chaff.

Basically, you have to be pretty schizophrenic. But it knew that, didn’t it, precious? Yesss . . . we knews it, precious, we did . . .

The Scientist

This is the part of you that was taught in schoolrooms to bleed literature dry of every nebulous interpretation of meaning that they can fabricate. This is the part that tends to function as a spellcheck while you’re writing, or critiques your plot, and probably it’s the one muttering, “This is crap, this is crap,” while you’re trying to write. If you’re experiencing writers’ block, you can count on it that the soulless, unfeeling scientist in you is to blame.

It can get be a hindrance at times, can’t it? Unfortunately, you still need it. Believe it or not, you do need a little logic and rationality when you’re writing, and the scientific part of you keeps that in check. By the traditional myth of brain lateralization, this would be the left brain; reason and critical thinking, all the technical and scientific aspects of the writing process.

The Artist

You know when you’ve come to that exciting part, and a little voice is going, “Oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!” while you’re writing? Yup, this is that voice. And when you’re killing a character or letting them find true love at last, the artist is inside you, crying. This is the one that’s putting the scientist’s stores of knowledge to good use, hitting on unlikely combinations and putting them together like a jigsaw puzzle. This is the little genius in you, the one that flies into a frenzy and writes like mad when you finally break through that creative block. The artist is the one who appreciates the beauty in things.

Unlike the scientist, the artist isn’t taught. This part of you isn’t developed in the schoolroom, unless your mind is wandering from the lesson. Typically, this part is developed in the woods, or on a busy city street, or other places where you’re “alone,” that is, away from the distractions of your everyday life. The artist is an autodidact; it learns. Nobody can teach you to be an artist. Really, being an artist is something you’re born into. But I do believe that there’s an artist in all of us: it’s just developed sooner in some than others. If you can discover that part of yourself, open yourself to it, free the artist within and let them learn, let yourself dream, then you can learn any art you’re called to. Even if it’s not something traditionally viewed as an art—if you bring creativity into it, anthing can be an art.

How to Balance Them

If you’re up against writers’ block, a good way to get around it—and a good way, in general, to avoid it—is to stop thinking and start feeling; suppress the scientist, and let your artist free. Just write—let the scientist take over in revision.

At least, that’s what people say.

Me, I don’t believe in it. Sure, it works, but that’s not a solution—it’s avoiding the problem. It’s the easy way out, and for a lot of people, that’s great. So yeah, if you want the easy way out of it, there you go. More power to you. Off with you, go write something.

But you want to know the secret? I do have one up my sleeve here. I’ve already said that writing is both an art and a science; well, I can reduce it to just one word. Writing is a discipline.

That’s right. Being a writer is like being a Jedi. Or, you know, a master of the martial arts. You have to be in touch with the techniques; but also with the spirit of the thing. But above all else, writing is about balance. Letting the two sides take turns at dominance isn’t balance. Balance isn’t fifty-fifty, it’s hundred-hundred. Give free reign to both sides, give them both power and control, and let them work together. This can only be achieved through practice, determination, and discipline.

You’re just a writer. I am too, and I may not be a master, but I believe this: To become a master of my art, I have to become something higher than human, something that transcends the everyday. I have to become an artist, a free-thinker; I have to dare to look at the world in ways no one else will, ways they’ll tell me aren’t there. Sometimes, I have to look like a lunatic. But inside, I have to be a monk: I have to find a way to work with both my mind and heart.

What do you think? Am I a genius, a philosopher, an artist—or a lunatic?

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Categories: Writing Passion | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk with Roses and Discoveries

by Karen Arnold

by Karen Arnold

A few days ago I took a walk. My favorite park for strolling and taking in the scenery is a five minutes’ drive.

Did you notice the irony? I drive to some place so I can take a walk. Huh. Never occurred to me until just the other day, but that’s pretty ridiculous when you think about it, isn’t it?

Get in the car, drive somewhere, what’s so strange about that? I hardly think about it. It’s totally normal. What could be more natural?

Maybe . . . walking?

On the one hand, I wanted to walk in the park, not in the city. So I took the fastest, most efficient way to get through the tedium and reach the pleasure quicker. That’s not really cutting corners. I have a saying: Walk fast so you’ll have time to smell the roses when you get to them. That makes sense, doesn’t it?

But on the other hand, what else am I missing, along the road between my home and the park? How many restaurants and shops that I’ve never been to, never thought of as more than a blur going by? How many people I’ve never met? How many experiences I simply haven’t had because I’ve never even thought of them?

At least once a week, I go to the same park to escape the “rat race” of the city and get “back” to a more natural setting. I go there to get away from all the stress of work, home, family, you know, all the routine. Only now, that freedom has become a part of my routine. It’s just another way I’m giving in to the habit of habit. Another missed opportunity for exploration, discovery, and growth.

So I’m faced with a choice between the familiar, assured gratification of a simple pleasure, or the prospect of an opportunity to have unforeseeable experiences.

I’m not entirely sure what this post is about. Seems to be about several important things. All I know is that I’m probably going to take a walk tomorrow, and leave my car at home. And maybe read Thoreau’s Walking again. Familiar with it?

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Categories: Imagining a Better World | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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