The mystical aspect
There’s a wonderful inexplicable something about the art and craft of writing.
In a Glimmer Train piece about various writers’ approaches to the business, there’s a thread of the mystical running through the comments. In response to the question, “Is there a point when it seems as if the writing is coming out of your fingertips?” Stephen Dixon said, “The first draft. I write the first thing that comes to mind. Immediately the magic occurs.” Ron Carlson said, “Every story is a journey into the unknown. The strangest feeling comes over you. You can’t think your way into it. If you’re true to the people in your story it’s going to happen.” David Long said, “It’s like walking through the woods with a tiny flashlight—you just hope it doesn’t conk out on you.” Carolyn Chute said, “I go into a quiet, almost meditative state. It feels sometimes like you’re psychic, like you’re pulling in something that already exists.” Alice Mattison said, “Sometimes I think the things that we write are located in the air above us.” Robert Olen Butler said, “Many times I feel like I’m channeling something as opposed to inventing it.”
Flannery O’Connor once said the writer should be the person who is most surprised by the story.
The usual explanation for this mystical aspect is as Tim Gautreaux said: “Much that a writer expresses comes from the subconscious, that realm of the nearly known.”
Surely that’s in large part true, for the subconscious is a treasure trove for any writer or artist. But there have been times when I’ve wondered if the magic could be something more. Something yet undiscovered, much less explained.
I’ve been privileged to feel that mystical energy and delightful surprise occasionally while I’m writing, and I hope you have, too.
I also hope a glimmer of it gets through to our readers.