Monday, June 4, 2012

Fiction Grounded in Reality

“People frequently believe the creative life is grounded in fantasy. The more difficult truth is that creativity is grounded in reality, in the particular, the focused, the well observed or specifically imagined.”
                              Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

A few months back, my wife told me something that startled me. “Your book,” she said, referring to Dancing Priest, “is filled with you.”

I was surprised because (1) I’ve never been in the Olympics, (2) I do ride a bike but have never raced, (3) I am not an ordained priest or even a member of the Anglican Church, (4) I met my wife in very different circumstances than Michael Kent met Sarah Hughes, and (5) I don’t know how to tango. A quick glance says there’s very little about me that is obviously in the book, with one significant exception: how one character comes to faith is based very closely on my own experience.

So her comment at first didn’t make much sense. And then I reread it, and discovered she was right. The fiction that is Dancing Priest is grounded in reality – a reality that’s very familiar.

And more than that, the sequel manuscript is as well. I’ve been editing – wrestling is a better word – the manuscript, and I’m realizing that it, too, is grounded in a familiar reality. So are the other manuscripts in the series (if it goes that far). So is the poetry I write. And the novel manuscript that’s completely different from what I’ve done so far. And the extended outline for still another novel. And the novella I’ve been working on, which is still unfinished but I have a really cool photo by Claire Burge for the cover.

Reading over everything I’ve done, I’ve learned there are some consistent themes, also grounded in that familiar reality.

The desire to create something exceptional.

How that desire faces circumstances or people standing in the way.

Unknown, unexpected forces or people becoming actively involved, without one’s awareness.

A belief that all will come right, even if not in this life.

The reality of faith, and the conflict it evokes.

These themes play through Dancing Priest and its sequel; through six more manuscripts behind it; through a manuscript totally unrelated to Dancing Priest; and the novella.

All of the themes are grounded in a reality I’m more than familiar with.

Nonetheless, it is still surprising. I thought I had made all of this stuff up. It turns out I hadn’t. Not really.

Led by Lyla Lindquist, we’re discussing Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity over at TweetSpeak Poetry. This week’s discussion covers chapters 4 and 5 – “Recovering a Sense of Integrity” and “Recovering a Sense of Possibility.” The main article at TweetSpeak will post on Wednesday.


Maureen said...

Good post, Glynn.

In the context of your remarks, it's interesting to look at what happens to that "grounded reality" in memoirs, at how composites get created (and why), and where "poetic license" is used to carry story.

SimplyDarlene said...

Indeed, I agree with miss Maureen.

As a side note sir Glynn, when you have finished wrestling with your Dancing Priest (ha, I make myself laugh), would you consider writing a writing book? I mean really, you have such great insight, advice, and it's true, all that you write is steeped in you. And I rather like that.


(do we get a sneak peak of the image by Claire?)

H. Gillham said...

I love that you wrote, "I thought I made all this stuff up."

Don't we all?

You really are on quite a journey.

Martha Jane Orlando said...

What we write can't help but have "us" in it - our perspectives, our feelings, and, yes, our realities. Your wife is very observant! :)

Megan Willome said...

Really good fiction reads as if it's true, as if everything that happens in the book actually happened (even if it takes place in another galaxy or an alternate universe). So I'm not surprised to find you in this category.

Anonymous said...

sounds like you have a good grip on reality...

David Rupert said...

Isn't it scary when other people see 'us' in our writing? Sometimes, it's meant to be that way. Much of blogging is that way. But the stuff we don't try to inject personality into, somehow seeps in.

Can't. Get. Away. From me!

S. Etole said...

It's always nice to find a good book filled with integrity ... and know where that comes from.