Thoughts on the Creative Writing Process
Of course, in speaking of creativity, it is true that people do not really create anything. Physicists will tell you that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. But what about ideas? Or the mind? It may have been the sculptor Michelangelo who observed that when shaping stone into a certain form, the form was already there, hidden in the marble or granite, and that his job as an artist was merely to find it. But other than such riddles, there are much deeper wells of archetype, mystery, and psychology that you can draw from in your creative writing, and this is the form hidden here for now.
This does not mean writing about people in ancient times or retelling Greek myths like Medusa or Achilles. In all of your stories, you usually will feature a central figure around whom the action and plot will orbit: the protagonist, or hero. It does not matter whether that figure is young or old, male or female, or even nonhuman; but it really is tough to tell a story about no one at all or with no person as the main character. A story can be written about a building or structure, or the fate of a certain mountain or field beside a flowing creek; but even then, the text has a subject and the action or developments move through time relative to whatever it may be.
What is meant then is to look at the creative powers you have as something that calls you back to the dawn of time and being, and the fountains of creation itself, so as to give your work a timeless and universal quality. And the protagonist contains all of this.
By example, you might look at some of literature's most powerful works: books like Moby Dick, Don Quixote, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tom Sawyer, or even Tarzan of the Apes. The authors seemed to touch some notes and melodies, chords, and full-on orchestral movements in these works that have resonated for ages. What is that quality? What were they doing in their writing that could be so durable in the popular imagination? Part of the reason is that throughout history the human story has various elements that are consistently compelling and dramatic, and the so-called hero's journey is a big part of it all. Conflict, passion, right and wrong, challenge, battle, love and death are all elementary, dear Watson.
Whether it is a rite of passage, a coming of age, an initiation, epic quest, or summa theologica, the hero's journey is what all peoples in all times have considered in terms of male and female life-passage, such as that any person may face a challenge and overcome it through adversity. Maybe because the human ego is so great here on Earth, or because almost anyone faces challenges, this process has become myth. It is not merely a challenge, such as getting your laundry done. It is a red-hot, fire-spewing dragon, and the journey to the cave where he lives is equally as dangerous as slaying the dragon itself. It is not just a man trying to humble himself as he deals with threats and danger; it is a gut-wrenching battle with the goddess Medusa, her hideous visage and crown of snakes at any moment capable of turning you to stone.
Meanwhile, where's my broadsword? Wench! Bring me my ale!
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