Thursday, May 31, 2012

Carson McCullers on the writing process

Here's Carson McCullers on how she writes:
The dimensions of a work of art are seldom realized by the author until the work is accomplished. It is like a flowering dream. Ideas grow, budding silently, and there are a thousand illuminations coming day by day as the work progresses. A seed grows in writing as in nature. The seed of the idea is developed by both labor and the unconscious, and the struggle that goes on between them.

I understand only particles. I understand the characters, but the novel itself is not in focus. The focus comes at random moments which no one can understand, least of all the author. For me, they usually follow great effort. To me, these illuminations are the grace of labor. All of my work has happened this way. It is at once the hazard and the beauty that a writer has to depend on such illuminations. After months of confusion and labor, when the idea has flowered, the collusion is Divine. It always comes from the subconscious and cannot be controlled.

That is a fine description of the creative process. There are some writers who are determined to have theme, plot, character, development all resolved before they even write the first word. I don't understand how to write like that. It's like people who plan their holidays in advance, day by day, hour by hour, so that every single moment of the vacation is spent in predictability. Some people do that, I know. I couldn't ever do it. And, in the same way, I wouldn't want to write a story if I knew even before it started how it was going to end.


John said...

Thanks for this. It's good to see it. Do you have the source?

James R Ament said...

Well, it's how I wrote my first book—my one and only novel so far.

Tom Conoboy said...

John, it comes from A Flowering Dream. You can find it here:

James, it seems to me the only approach that can work effectively.