A writer’s life involves a delicate balance between immersion and seclusion. We must be of the world to discover events and locales for exploration, to stimulate curiosity, to develop observations and empathy. In the chaos and trauma of everyday life, we learn what it is to be human. Our writing is not restricted to solely the inspiration of our own lives. Otherwise, we’d each write one or two books, perhaps a handful of poems, and be spent. The experiences of loved ones and complete strangers also inform our creations.
While exposure fuels story ideas and context, writers need quiet isolation in which to create. We shut out distractions and nurse the visions and voices in our heads, so we can record them in a way that can experienced by readers. In essence, we separate from the very source of our inspiration, but for good reason.
Author Saul Bellows, recipient of the Pulitzer and Nobel prizes, sums things up nicely. He feels “that art has something to do with achievement of stillness in the midst of chaos. A stillness which characterizes prayer, too, and the eye of the storm. I think that art has something to do with an arrest of attention in the midst of distraction.”
Life moves so fast. Always there’s a place we need to be at, a task we need to complete. Most of us are preoccupied with something that has happened, is happening, or might happen. But to create art, we must each devise a way of slowing down, focusing attention even at times when it seems impossible to do. Writers and artists set conditions to induce Bellows’s prayer-like state. For me, it’s during that relaxed state that characters slip from between my worries and burble into my conscious thinking. As in meditation, I listen for the subtlest cue and focus my attention there. What needs telling? Where is the art?
The circle closes with the reader who chooses, during the stillness amid their own chaos, to immerse themselves in a story. I hope they engage with the microcosm of life spread on the pages and that the experience of someone else’s slice of life makes theirs a little richer.
(PS Click here to join Gwen’s bimonthly newsletter and receive your free excerpt of The Last Hoffman.)
“I Loved Your Book The Last Hoffman. It is insightful and honest and a great read. So to all of my reader friends Gwen is writing about us. Canadian literature at it’s finest.” –A Reader
“For all the novel features characters that are alone, it is a story driven by human connections (…) With vivid descriptions, natural dialogue and in-depth characterization, Tuinman compels us to look beyond the surface. The ending is triumphant.” –Historical Novel Society