I keep my head in multiple worlds. I’m here on Earth one minute and the next I’m somewhere and “some when” else. This is part of my writing process. I spin up the dream machine and let it fill my head with all manner of ideas which entertain me. This is where I deny the Icarus complex that gnaws at my brain and I keep going, filtering the wheat from the chaff before finally coming to the root of a story.
The root of the idea hits light a lightning bolt, setting my brain on fire with all the possibilities. It’s one of the best parts of writing. The moment – however long it lasts – takes me from the writing desk to the movie set. I see the entire future of what the piece could be, how it will be received, and up until the big curtain drops, I live in those moments.
This is also where the moment can be too much. It can entice, enrapture, and blind me. This is my Achilles’ Heel. Overloaded with ideas I cannot seem to organize, I falter into the sea, falling under the weight of all my creation’s needs. The trick is in bleeding it dry of all the color and excitement so it can sit in a world of high contrast and be judged on its merits.
A story is a secret. While I write a story, I keep it locked in the box upstairs, only whispering what it could be about to a chosen few. The story contorts and undulates as it goes through the creation process, only becoming what it will be as I near completion. Characters talk to me about who they are as I write them, they tell me what they need to show the readers and then I write it. In Agents, Syllis told me she was something far more than what even she knew. Her mother was aware the fantastic gifts had transferred to her daughter, but never told her about them. It was an awakening the character had to go through alone. The same is true with Julius in Shattered Gods, but in a different way. He comes to understand that he can touch and feel the Black Idol without being near it, something that he keeps from Pierce and Lyra until they uncover that truth for themselves. Revealing secrets is a dangerous game. I see it as akin to a magician pulling back the curtain and showing you their tricks. It has to be done for the story to unfold properly, but getting the feel right is paramount.
Writing isn’t hard, and yet for a varied amount of reasons it’s the hardest thing I do many days. It takes the days of staring at a page to have the hours where my fingers don’t slow down. When I discuss writing with the people I meet, they always find it fascinating, as if they could not do it on their own if they put their mental power to it. That’s the secret about writing – you can do it if you choose to. I equate it with lifting weights. Hard at first, but the more and more you do it, the more reaction you get out of the muscles you’ve been using. There’s power within, you just have to tap it.
There are always stories to be told and even retold. Many of your favorite stories have the same theme and pacing. In fact, you probably don’t recognize it and that’s understandable, you just enjoy the stories. Even an epic like Star Wars is a rehash of the Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, a fact which George Lucas points out in several interviews. It isn’t the theme which must be new, but the way the story gets told which needs to be new. If a story is too closely linked then it can be passed off as a fake or a copy, and writers are desperate – even fearful – of being perceived as a fake. None of the books I’ve written to this point are something amazing, shiny, and new in theme, but the paths I chose to take when telling them arguably is.
When the bright lights of the sun come for my work, I’ll have to be mindful its heat does not melt the wax of my stories and send me tumbling into the cold sea below.
Addendum: I’ve come to realize a few things about Social Media. As quickly as people become stars, those same people are ripped apart by having views which are considered “unmutual” to certain folks. It’s odd how artists in particular seem to consume their own. We pick and choose who we decide has art worth the time of others, which I find is oddly close-minded for a group who espouses an open play field. The Big Secret is – you’ll have their support provided you put yourself in their box and talk the same way they do.
I say – be yourself for better or worse – true creators will appreciate you and your work. You’re more than the number of followers you have or like and shares you receive.