Creator or Channel of Creation

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Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 23 Nov 2010, 15:15

I'm becoming increasingly curious about something I've noticed in talking to other writers.

Some writers think of themselves as (for lack of a better or a consensus explanation) the channel through which a muse or a perfect platonic form expresses itself. It is common to hear this type of writer refer to the way the story wants to be written or the way the characters have taken over the story and the writer is just writing their story. Sometimes this kind of writer becomes extremely conflicted about something that happens in a story (usually something bad that happens to a favorite character), but they ultimately still get the job done.

On the other end of the specrtum, though I have my doubts that these are perfect opposites, are writers who consider themselves the creators of the story. If they speak of a source of their ideas it would usually be their subconscious expressing archetypal ideas through a dramatic structure inherent to human experience and understanding. This type of writer is usually pretty gleeful when they detect a story-structure-appropriate method of tormenting their characters, because they see this as a great opportunity for conflict and tension and setting up a scenario wherein all hope appears to be lost.

I would stress that I don't believe one type or the other is more or less spiritual. Some 'channelers' simply conceptualize this way because it's natural to them and don't see anything otherworldly or higher-conscious about it. Some 'creators' have very strong spiritual beliefs about their writing but conceptualize their relationship to the creative source and their purpose in a different way.

Anyway, I would be very curious as to how many writers here fall into which category (or somewhere between, perhaps?). Have mercy on my curiosity. Also, I'd be curious to know genre and writer's country-of-origin (and country of residence if different), if people feel comfortable sharing. Any other misc. info people think might be useful in attempting to see (possibly nonexistent) correlations between one type or the other, please speak up!

The suspense is killing me. :)
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby polymath » 23 Nov 2010, 16:12

Now who's homesteading in whose head?

I've noticed parallels between organic writers and muse-inspired writers and planning writers and sole creator writers. They're by no means mutually exclusive in any sense. In my estimation there's at least one other related category: the organic planner writers who are open to any source of inspiration. The literary zeitgeist is rich and honorable and as old as humanity's folklore roots. Every writer consciously, subconsciously, or nonconsciously draws from those who've gone before. Writers borrow. Writers research detail, method, language, as they deem necessary. A lot is picked up by osmosis. Thus the admonition to read, read widely, read closely. And writers steal what they can because inspiration is a fickle muse.

E.M. Forster distinguishes between preaching writers, visionary writers, and mystic writers. Romanticism's poetic justice tradition could easily fall into the preacher category. Visionary writers into the Realism cadre. Mystic writers transcend Romanticism and Realism and Modernism and Postmodernism and the other movement isms by visionarily delivering a profound, vigorous message related to the human condition.

The word novel has for me a freight of meaning, novel in the sense of unique, fresh, new, and so many other adjectives.
And in that sense is for me the highest expression of narrative arts through the mystical qualities of unique creative vision.

The genre I'm working towards is the mystic genre. Where I am physically is immatterial. I'm not a citizen of where I am by others' definitions, though I'm a card carrying citizen. If anything I lean toward a Humanist idealogy; however, I have strong differences of opinion with the organized Humanist mainstream agenda and most other agendas. No one person has all the answers for every individual. Some of the answers all the time for most individuals, all the answers some of the time for some individuals, never enough answers for all the individuals. The law of diminishing returns kicks in somewhere near the majority-minority tipping point.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 23 Nov 2010, 16:36

polymath wrote:Now who's homesteading in whose head?


Turnabout, my good polymath. Love what you've done with the place. :P Lovely, thought-provoking response, by the way.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Sommer Leigh » 23 Nov 2010, 17:13

I've never been comfortable with the idea of "muse." I've never felt like anything is talking to me. I've always felt like me talking to me. I mean, I find inspiration all over the place...but I don't consider any of it secret other beings whispering in my ear. I also don't think any of my characters are talking to me. I'm kind of a mystical stick in the mud :-)

Monday I posted a TED event talk with author Elizabeth Gilbert and she talks about this subject exactly. She discusses how the Romans called this "entity" a Genius and was this great psychological construct used to protect the artist from the results of their work.

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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 23 Nov 2010, 19:13

Wow, Sommer, thanks for posting that. I missed it somehow when you posted it earlier. I found it very interesting and entertaining even if I don't agree with her on her conclusions. In fact, I kept thinking (especially when she was talking about creative faeries) that she hadn't heard of the Celtic version of the muse who becomes lovers with the artist and slowly drains the life out of him until she has killed him. Not such a protective construct, that one. :) Then again, with responsibility, ability, and perserverence being themes in my life that have manifested in ways I can't even go into, I don't see the humanistic idea of human as creative source as the cause of the self-destructive nature of artists. I see it as the artist's salvation from anguish.

So, basically, I'm with you. No muse talking to me. Move over, I want in the mud bath too. :)
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby sierramcconnell » 24 Nov 2010, 13:42

It's hard for me to take a side in this.

On the one hand, I would love to think that I'm a highly creative person who comes up with these amazing worlds and ideas that form from absolutely nothing or perhaps just a table lamp.

On the other, when I'm writing a scene and I stop and go, "I'm sorry, but I don't understand, why are we writing this?" and I clearly have a voice in my head of a muse saying "because that's how it happened, just go with it" and later when I'm idly researching and find evidence and facts that I did not have before that back up why it had to happen that way, well...

I have to wonder if it isn't someone from an alternate dimension come to whisper in my ear, and I was the only person to not just brush them away as if they were a bug.

I know it sounds like the insane ramblings of some crazy person, but this has happened on more than one occasion. Things falling into place that I didn't plan. Knowledge that I didn't have suddenly coming to me and then when I look it up, well, how did I know that? Stuff making sense when I look it up.

It's not just a creative fancy. It's got to be character channelling or ghosts or possession or what have you.

I'm simply not that intelligent.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 24 Nov 2010, 14:49

sierramcconnell wrote:On the one hand, I would love to think that I'm a highly creative person who comes up with these amazing worlds and ideas that form from absolutely nothing or perhaps just a table lamp.


Speaking for myself only, I don't think that assuming the position of creator means the writer is creating something from nothing. To use the muse idea, I would say that the creator has the same thing inside himself that others have in the form of a muse. The divine spark, for lack of a better term.

sierramcconnell wrote:I know it sounds like the insane ramblings of some crazy person...


No, you just sound like the channeler type instead of the creator type. In working toward my psych grad degree, I can say I have talked to people that I think might have had issues with delusions, but that goes far beyond merely feeling like you're in communication with a creative 'other'.

sierramcconnell wrote:I'm simply not that intelligent.


I don't think it's a matter of intelligence, so neither creator nor channeler is inherently more creative or intelligent, IMO.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Louise Curtis » 24 Nov 2010, 14:54

I'm definitely a creator, and I think a lot of people that talk like channels are conscious of what they're doing too (in the sense that they plan tension, description, etc - instinct can only take us so far). I also struggle to do bad things to my characters, but I'm getting over it.

I'm Australian, and I write mainly adventure fantasy for children and YA.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Mira » 24 Nov 2010, 14:55

I know I channel. Not all the time, but when I'm really in the right place with my writing, I'm channeling.

Most of the time, it feels like a partnership. I'm still there, I'm still creating and shaping and forming, but something else is moving with me, through me and together we are creating something.

Occasionally, I feel like I just need to get out of the way, and let whatever it is speak. My best writing tends to come from that place.

I know the difference. I know when I'm channeling and when I'm not. I'm channeling a tiny bit as I write this. Now as to what I'm channeling, I don't know. (There, I stopped channeling). I do know that there are certain doors within writing that I've been scared to open, because I am not sure I want to go there - to let certain energies move through me. I probably will, eventually, but...not yet.

That probably sounds all mystical and wierd, but to me that's just the experience of writing. I don't know if I'm actually channeling a particular energy, or just tapping into something larger than me - I don't know.

There's a weird way that's abit disappointing. I sort of wish I could take all the credit for it. :) On the other hand, I think that becoming a clear channel IS a part of being a creative being. And when I am in that place, when I am truly channeling, there is great joy there.


Interesting topic, Margo. Thanks.

I am interested - for those who don't feel as though they are channeling - how does it feel when you write?
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby sierramcconnell » 24 Nov 2010, 14:58

[is currently writing to get ahead of daily count]

I think the day I can explain where I get words like Tistafordante off the top of my head for vast stone cities surrounding a church is the day I will be able to explain whether or not I'm a creator or a channeller. :3
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 24 Nov 2010, 15:09

Mira wrote:I am interested - for those who don't feel as though they are channeling - how does it feel when you write?


It feels sort of like building a device. Saying 'machine' sounds too cold and technical. But for me it's having a plan to build something that does a particular thing, not just for me but for the other people who will use the device. (There's that whole 'writing for yourself' versus 'writing for an audience' thing I'm always going on about.) I forge the pieces. I build the basic structure. I experiment with how the pieces are going to interact with one another and the user. I balance the components. I calibrate. I polish. I tighten. I tinker. And finally flip the switch. Hopefully, I end up with a divine machine.

And to answer my own question... I have written mostly adult fantasy and mostly epic, recently crossing over to urban fantasy and seriously loving it. I'm a born and raised Californian, but I'd say my mental makeup is a combination of Californian, American, and British. A lot of how I relate to my own creative process comes from the people I met while living in the UK. It's strange that I would find my UK experience supported (for me) more of the creator concept when the US is really much more individualistic and self-worshipping.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby bcomet » 24 Nov 2010, 15:23

This is a wonderful conversation, Margo. Thanks.

For me, it shifts.
Sometimes I just "let go" and the story comes. It is very entertaining, like having a story read to me and I'm writing it as I get it.
Other times–and I've become a big fan of this–I let the outline come and also work it and from it. Then, in the writing, much happens to enrich that (hopefully) that is still unplanned but that fits (hopefully).

Sometimes I have looked to others to tell a version of their story. I try to get out of the way. I am working on such a story now.
It is about abandonment and is based on the emotional climate of a friend of mine who has struggled with that issue her entire life.
It is not her story, but the character grapples with the same very gripping and tearing issues. In this case, I have been astounded at how difficult this has been to write. I have gone from outside the character to feeling her story deeply, and have had to brave the territory to write the dark part of the journey so that the arrival into belonging and identity is an achievement and satisfying.

One of the things that I find the most awesome about writing a character–any character–is that when they come to life, they have their own personality, which is often very different from my own. On the one hand, a writer hopes that their characters are not all versions of themselves. I go to great lengths with character development to give them individuality and voice. But what astounds me is when it does seem to feel like I am channeling them. For example, they often have dialects, that I do not, personally, have at all or put together sentence structures that are not typical of me.

I loved what Polymath added to this discussion too.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Fenris » 25 Nov 2010, 15:05

I agree with a lot of people here, especially Mira--I do both, but my writing tends to be better when I'm channeling.

I have been frequently admonished for letting my mind wander (especially in class), but I can't help it. I'm a dreamer. And ever since I started writing, my daydreams tend to be about some scene from my WIP, whether it's a scene that I've already written or--even better--one that I haven't written yet, that comes totally out of the blue. It is because of this ability, this tendency to imagine something totally different than what I originally had in mind, that I am convinced I am for the most part a channeler. It's almost like my characters are working through me, for every single scene that catches me by surprise like this seems to already be crafted around them, catering to their personalities, their strengths and weaknesses, without me having to 'fudge' anything at all. Maybe it's just because I've spent more time than is strictly necessary developing each character in my head before actually endeavoring to create them on paper.

Actually, my WIP itself suggests channeling, something along the lines of Sierra's idea:
sierramcconnell wrote:I have to wonder if it isn't someone from an alternate dimension come to whisper in my ear, and I was the only person to not just brush them away as if they were a bug.

It's a little tough to explain it briefly, but the main idea is kind a combination between this and the placebo effect: if enough people believe in something strongly enough, or an event resonates strongly enough with the people of a certain world, their collective thoughts can be projected outward unconsciously, and unconsciously picked up by someone on another world entirely, no matter how distant the two worlds might be from one another. And as the thoughts have no relation to the recipient(s) or their world, they can embrace it and turn it into 'fiction.'

Sounds crazy, right? It makes more sense in context (I hope--none of my readers have had a problem with it yet!).

Now, in answer to Mira's question:
Mira wrote:I am interested - for those who don't feel as though they are channeling - how does it feel when you write?

If I'm not channeling, and being forced to play creator (typically due to lack of inspiration), things begin to get harder. I feel like the guy from Greek mythology who's doomed to push a boulder uphill for eternity. I just...can't...do it. It feels like I'm not getting anywhere, and meanwhile that awesome scene reserved for later dances tantalizingly before my mind's eye. I struggle through as best I can, but unfortunately, when I look back or when others read it, it's rather plain to see. The difference is amazing. Unfortunately, there's no Get Out of Jail Free card--the only way to get better is practice and careful planning.

Oh, and in answer to Margo's initial question: I'm American. I guess I'm just resisting the individualistic mindset, as I'm at my best when 'channeling.'

Sorry for the wall of text. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Quill » 26 Nov 2010, 10:00

Channel of Creation.

When I am in the writing zone, the creative head space, it's channeling. Not woo-woo channeling or anything like that. It is simply the result of focus and the bringing forward of all acquired aptitude. This is the case whether I am planning, or writing, or editing.

This may ultimately semantics, Margo. I cannot imagine that when you are constructing your projects, and I'm imagining you on the floor with an erector set, metaphorically, that you are not channeling, by my definition.

I would think that any writing that is not channeling would not be particularly interesting (inspired in any way). I'd probably call that technical writing. Proposals, contracts, assembly manuals, like that.
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Re: Creator or Channel of Creation

Postby Margo » 26 Nov 2010, 13:46

Quill wrote:This may ultimately semantics, Margo. I cannot imagine that when you are constructing your projects, and I'm imagining you on the floor with an erector set, metaphorically, that you are not channeling, by my definition.


It may be semantics, to an extent, especially if we're talking more about a spectrum. However, there is a difference in how the two extremes relate to their work, and I have seen differences in product and structure. I suspect that also relates to purpose.

As to my method, think less erector set and more artisan doing everything himself, from forging his own components and hammering them into shape to the finished product.

Quill wrote:I would think that any writing that is not channeling would not be particularly interesting (inspired in any way). I'd probably call that technical writing. Proposals, contracts, assembly manuals, like that.


I suspect this is semantics in definition of creator/channeler. I don't consider myself a channeler in that I'm the one in control, not the creative force or a creative other, and I've never had a problem with flat or technical results. I suspect someone who relates to the muse method would get flat results from trying to take the creative reins themselves, while someone who prefers acting as the creative force themselves would produce something muddled and flat if they tried to follow the story rather than lead it.
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