Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Here is the frustrating thing about writing: The space inside which ideas are formed is vast and continually expanding, like the universe, just pure potential. So when you begin to write you take something fairly ephemeral and you pin it down on the page like a dead butterfly. Once it's pinned, the idea becomes more and more limited because this is the nature of ideas, they become static once captured. You give a character life and he or she makes decisions and you paint a few sets and work in a theme and pretty soon you become enamored of these static ideas, people and plots. They start to feel, well if not exactly real, then familiar, like cities you visited with your parents as a child and cherish, though you vaguely remember them. And once that happens, your ability to see them as having unlimited potential disappears. They can't make any movement, say any line of dialog or embark on any adventure, they can only do certain of those things if you intend to make sense, or tell a story or get to a point.

And that is frustrating, because when the idea was gooey and hot in your mind, it was big and wild and alive with possibility. Then it just becomes a thing, an object that can be discarded, criticized and cut from the page, forgotten before it was ever fully born.

10 Comments:

At 11:06 AM, Blogger tracer said...

I hear ya! I've returned to and set aside several different projects over the last week hoping to feel that wildness again. I almost said "capture" that wildness. And therein lies the problem, no?

 
At 3:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You described something I've never quite been able to. Thank you!

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Tracy: I think capture is an appropriate word, actually.

Steph: Glad I made sense. I was pretty sure that what I wrote was unintelligible.

J

 
At 8:26 AM, Blogger Patrushka said...

That would be a nice idea for a book: the character: a writer who tries writing on characters that keep reducing the author's possibilities due to the characteristics the author gave them when creating them. The idea sounds "Borgian" to me (something that Borges could have done, if he had wanted to).

 
At 8:38 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Patricia: Yes, it sounds Borgian, or like something Calvino might have taken on...in fact, I think he may have in "if on a winter's night, a traveler."

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger Patrushka said...

ups... I admit I never got after page 25 or so... But don't lose hope...
I have started sth like 20 books that I haven't finished in the past 6 months! I'm crazier than ever, it seems.

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger Patry Francis said...

But sometimes if you give them time, they become bigger and gooier than you ever imagined...

 
At 9:19 AM, Blogger Murke said...

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At 9:28 AM, Blogger Murke said...

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At 9:35 AM, Blogger Murke said...

In the Kundera article in last weeks NYer, he speaks of the novelist's feeling that before his or her character hit the page no other living person could have imagined them, Cervantes rage at whomever wrote the sequel to DQ, and how without the charm of the "unexpected itself" no great novel character could be conceivable again. Not sure if that's in keeping with what you're driving at but several of your comments regarding a character's expansion or limits made me think of this. Bleh. Moving on, I believe the story idea referred to by Patrushka has already been written: a story about a "great author" undermined by his main character's refusal to be part of the Wonka-esque creation of the "great novel" being constructed within the text of the story. I can't recall the writer's name but the story's called "A Novel in Which Westlake Westlake Refuses to Appear" and the general consensus was that it was too much like Dilbert.

 

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