In her admirable biography of Louisa May Alcott, Susan Cheever, daughter of renowned author John Cheever, and herself an author of multiple and successful memoirs, biographies and novels, talks about the writer’s craft, and the writer’s source of great fiction—two different things. Her discussion of the writer’s trance, or vortex, seems to a writer like me to have the touch of genius in it, and I for one will verify its presence and its power in the writer’s life.
All writing, she says, is an act of obsession, but fiction writing requires a higher level of intensity. To write fiction, a writer must let the subconscious bubble up into full view and then tame and shape the images into some kind of coherent theme. The descent into the subconscious can be terrifying and time consuming
For a novelist, the real world falls away and the world of the novel takes on a vividness and fascination hat can’t be matched by people or happenings in the pale, ordinary, slow-moving world. The characters of the imagination seem to have a mysterious claim on the writer’s time and attention. In this kind of trance (or vortex)” Cheever writes, “ it is extremely hard to perform as a good wife, (husband), daughter, (son), or mother (or father).(Parentheses mine).
If you’re a writer, you have most likely experienced this “claim on…(your) time and attention” that Cheever calls, in many places in the biography, the writer’s vortex.
How do you deal with your vortex? Are you there today? Or did you pass it up to shop,
play in Facebook, or write in your blog or just plain be?
More on the Vortex and the Writer’s Craft next Friday on my blog..