Writers and the Monsters We Create
I tied an apron around my hips, checked on my section for the night, and looked for work to pass the time.
The kitchen heat crept up my back, and I loosened the collar on the shirt.
He smiled, and I smiled back, the smile not quite touching my eyes. It felt heavy and false.
“How are you?” he asked.
“Good,” I said. No elaboration needed. He could see the weariness in my eyes. “How about you?”
His smile reached his eyes. “Good,” he said with a little more feeling but the same amount of fatigue. “I’m alive, so I can’t complain.”
He kept working while I stopped and stilled, hot plates still in my bare hands. I watched him push a few through the dishwasher, I looked for his eyes that were now down on his work, and I wondered where I’d lost the wonder of life.
The miracle of existence.
Somehow, I’d lost it along the way of living.
Victor Frankenstein described the beginning moments of creation like this:
I paused, examining and analysing all the minutiae of causation, as explemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me – a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius, who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.
And God described it like this:
When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up – for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground – then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.
In the beginning, the act of creation is dizzying. It’s pure, exciting, and full of promise.
But it doesn’t take long for the creation to demand more, to go wrong, to look different under fluorescent lighting.
Upon animation, Frankenstein’s monster changes:
His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath; his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shriveled complexion, and straight black lips.
And with life stirring in our own bones, we also changed after one bite of juicy forbidden fruit:
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. And then they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
The same is true with our art.
In the earliest stages of creation, ideas pour from our hands and pens onto blank paper, and our hearts beat faster with all the excitement.
Anticipation is electric.
And then comes the task of sitting down day after day, writing no matter what your mood, your schedule, your characters.
The story changes a little with animation. The beautiful scenes initially chosen no longer work as a whole. The ending doesn’t fit the tone of the piece. The characters feel a little wayward and uncontrollable.
This is the journey of creating: Wonder gives way to disillusionment.
But if you stick with it long enough, you’ll find grace.
The messiest parts of your draft will take on new meaning. The characters most flawed will leave a reader breathless. The unexpected plot turn will suddenly work, almost as if it was meant to be from the beginning.
Artistry is a practice in grace.
Somehow, I’d lost the wonder of life along the way of day-to-day living.
But life is still miraculous, no matter my angle of perception.
And living is a lot like writing.
It’s all a step closer to redemption.
Are you a little disillusioned like me in art and life?