I used to imagine myself as something as a carpenter when I wrote. I think this can be attributed to an overly-literal reading of a passage from Hemingway’s A Movable Feast where the author recounts coming to the understanding that he never wanted to describe but rather to make (with words). I thought this was an accurate and useful distinction, and when in a rendering jam I would try to remember Hemingway’s wise perspective.
I have since replaced make with translate and the carpenter profession for gardener. I don’t think I can make anything. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to make a story any more than I know how to make a flower. What I do know how to do is to tend an environment in which creation is possible. Just as a gardener plants and waters and shades his garden so that creation might flourish, so too I attempt to create an inviting environment within me through which creation can pass.
And when this creative energy accepts my invitation, I attempt to translate it as faithfully as possible. This translation is my real job, the most active part of this agreement. The environment to which the invitation has been made, meanwhile, must be all stillness. The only movement allowed within this space is that of the creative energy. Any movement I introduce would disrupt the creation, as I might mistake it for what is authentic and translate what is merely my own invention as opposed to what was invited.
Given this, I suppose you could say I am not creative in the literal sense. This is a pill most writers and artists are unwilling to swallow, but I will swallow it all the same in the name of sanity. Since I do not know how to make a story, since I do not know in the factual sense why a story works but rather only that it works when I see it working, it is best to be honest. If you found a gardener in his garden trying to assemble a rose from the dirt, you would shake your head and call the padded wagon. Writers can go mad far easier, mistaking what grows from the garden within them for themselves.
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