Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Material Writer

A blank sheet of paper lies before you on the table, rolled into a typewriter, or in electronic form on your computer. You feel a story coming on. Let’s say it is a play. The image that incited it is a woman you know—a woman who bears an ambiguous relationship to you. You dimly see two brothers who have both been in love with her, but you cannot see their faces or make out their ages. That’s all you have: a blank sheet of paper and three bodies.

Where will the words come from to fill the pages before the paper and ink become an accomplished work of art? They will come from inside you. You will create it all from a material body. No spirit such as a Muse will sit beside you whispering in your ear. When a scene calls for anger, you must recall what it feels like to be angry and become angry yourself. When a scene calls for tears, you must cry to write it. If your hero attracts men, you must see her devastating smile that attracts them.

If you believe the mind is thoroughly embodied, you must act on that belief even when you approach a work of art. For all the words arise from your material makeup. If you wait for a Muse in whom you do not believe, all is lost. Experience, imagination, and decision-making ability are all you have to rely on. They come from that mush embedded in your head.

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