I’ve been working on a novella inspired by a YouTube video inspired by a symphony inspired by Romanticism. I’ve shared the title with only one person – the photographer whom I’ve asked to find a photo that might work for the cover. (If it’s published, it will be in ebook format only, but a cover is still needed.)
The draft is its current form is 11,500 words, on its way to about 20,000 words. The story is about two people – a kind of improbable love story – but it’s also about art and music and creativity. Two of the backdrops are art museums – one I know well and one I know only through the internet. Two of the backdrops are symphony halls – neither of which I know personally but it’s amazing what you can learn on the internet.
And the main settings – two urban areas – I know. I’ve walked the streets. I understand the “smells.” I’ve sensed what the people are like as they go rushing by. I’ve looked at the lunchtime food shops and the cracks in the sidewalks. I’ve seen buildings dirty from automobile exhaust and the ones that have been cleaned. I had lunch in the hotels and restaurants.
When I had those experiences, I never considered them as elements of a story. But that’s what they became, and all that was required was a YouTube video to serve as the catalyst. I wasn’t even thinking of a novella when I first watched it – I was focused on editing and rewriting the sequel to my novel Dancing Priest.
But I saw the video, and was taken with the expression on one’s person face, a face I placed in a particular geography. And all the pieces, or most of them, began to fall into place.
How does this happen?
And why does this happen?
The human imagination is a marvelous thing. While we often lament how derivative everything seems to be (my wife wore clothes in the 1960s and early 1970s similar to what is being sold today), the fact is that the human mind is – can be – a wildly imaginative “device.” We can pull an enormous number of things together – events, histories, ideas, feelings – and swirl them around until they become something new. For some of us, they come spilling out as stories, poems and articles, or as paintings or sculptures, or as music.
Or even a novella.
If we indeed made in God’s image, and I believe we are, then we can’t help but be creative and wildly imaginative. A God who created the ostrich, or a porcupine, must have one wild and wacky sense or humor. A God who created mountains and clouds must think like a painter. A God who created songbirds must be a symphony conductor. A God who created humans with emotions must be a novelist, too.
And in His image, we strive to do the same, even if we always fall short. Even if we don’t believe in God, we are still made in His image, and we can’t help but imagine ourselves as creator (little “c”), doers of the creative act. Even when our art or writing is considered blasphemous, we are still creating in His image – because it is “blasphemous” for a reason.
We write. We paint. We conduct and play. We create.
Sometimes I’m amazed at the wonder of it all.
Photograph: Graffiti by Michael Drummond via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.