Intimate Acts of Writers: Sharing Naked Creativity
The Intimate Acts of Sharing Creativity
Over the past month, I have committed intimate acts I had only dreamed possible as a writer.
Do you remember sharing your first venture into creativity? What that was like? Who shared it with you? Their response to you?
Often the first venture into the intimacy of creativity happens as children, and most often with our primitive artwork. It is an encounter with Deity that often is never lost, but as children, we revel in it joyously, innocently . We share it with the full expectation that others will feel the God-spark of creativity that we do and understand not just our art but something of ourselves as well.
I distinctly remember myself at the age of three, telling or singing stories every day, cutting paper dolls out of shopping catalogs, and marching tribes of river rocks across the above-ground oak roots at grandma’s house. All my stories were about some girl saving the world.
Not much has changed over all these years. I’m still prone to writing thrillers that are bigger than just the woman in jeopardy.
But then something happens as we get older that’s either nurtured or nixed. Enough times, we nix it ourselves, thanks to either criticism or questioning.
I knew before I crafted by first written sentence that I wanted to be a writer. The more intense my writing was, the more deeply it was misunderstood, even when I tried to share it and explain it to those who were my closest friends and family. Loved ones who never questioned the intentions of their favorite authors routinely questioned my motives. Or worse. They assumed that they knew exactly who or what I was talking about.
I remember with painful clarity sitting at the kitchen table at the age of eight as I tried to reassure my mother that I had no plans of running away like the little girl in the story in my backpack intended. I was both embarrassed and appalled that she could not separate a character in my story from me. Thirty years later, an almost identical situation played out between my younger daughter and her beloved teacher who feared that an orphaned princess in a third grade medieval fantasy was a sure sign of premeditated matricide.
The process of creating is such an intimate side of oneself–whether artist, musician, or writer–that it’s a wonder we ever throw our masterpieces to the public dogs to rip apart, but we do it anyway because we want to share that side of ourselves.
As strange as it may sound, I believe that revealing our creative process to someone in an intimate relationship is one of the deepest intimacies we can ever hope for. If it’s accepted and understood, that is.
I have been fortunate enough to have had several men in my life, from platonic to romantic relationships, who couldn’t get enough of every word I wrote. They wanted to read everything I wrote as I wrote it, but most of them–I believe in hindsight—just to say that they were the first to read it. They all responded very differently to my creative process, never really becoming a part of it or with the misguided belief that all sharing myself with them so that they could critique every syllable or come up with ideas of their own that they wanted me to write instead.
I was in a decades-long relationship with another man who wanted to own copies of my books—buy them straight from the bookstores and point them out to colleagues. But over the course of 20-plus years, he read very little I wrote. In those years, staying home to write full-time was my One Big Dream, but he never understood why I wanted to write what I wrote or how the creative process played out in me, and when I did share with them, he would often ask me, “Why would anyone want to read that?” He didn’t understand genre fiction and, for the most part, he unfortunately did not understand me. But as we were divvying up our legal possessions, I learned that he believed many of the things that happened in Access were blow-by-blow accounts of affairs with other men.
After that, I gave up on the idea that any man that I could be romantically involved with would ever be able to share that deeply intimate act of how I create. With my newest manuscript–given my background with sharing my creative process with those I care deeply for–sharing now feels a bit like dancing naked in the spotlight.
Criticism has always been plentiful, and I’ve always heard it much more loudly than praise.
This is different now. Scarier than ever before because I’m showing my creative process not to a stranger or to someone to knows only one facet of my life, but with someone who knows me better than anyone else ever has, whether friend or lover or family. He knows how I see things , how I feel about things. He reads stories, words, phrases, emotions that reflect things he has seen in my real life, not my characters’ fictional life.
There is a great danger that he will see any scene I write as a judgment against him or judgment for someone in my past…although he’s reasonably sure that I’m not a secret government agent with expertise in torture and I probably have never assassinated a known terrorist. I can neither confirm nor deny….
There’s still a danger that every word out of my protagonist’s mouth will betray what I really feel in my heart or at least be seen as such. Through sharing everything about my creative process–the idea, the first audio draft dictated on some long walk under the moon, the first edits, the revisions, the layering in of subtext, the final formatting, the publication–I am allowing him to see something that few others, if any others at all, have ever really understand, and that is how both my mind and my hard work…
…How I create something from what you think is nothing that is never nothing.
Everything I create is somehow a byproduct of my emotions, my experiences , and the framework of a story in which I rehearse different life possibilities. He sees the characters separating themselves from me, becoming something else, becoming thought-forms that live and breathe on their own, and these stories that choose their own path after I as their Creator have breathed that life into them.
Sharing both the how and why of my creative process means sharing the original life spark with that breathed life into me.
It’s really too bad that no man in my life ever really understood that before because then he might’ve understood me and there might’ve been a chance long-term. But for all the people who missed out on that in my life before, it’s okay. It’s really okay.
Because there’s a reason some people are in the past…and not being able to share my creative self with them is reason enough.