Writing and the Creative Life: “Believing is seeing”

A twist on the old saying, “Seeing is believing.”

As writers, we do everything we can to enable our characters to come to life. Whether it’s questionnaires, biographies, interviews, monologues, anything we can do to engage our characters and immerse ourselves in their lives can help us eventually to hear their voices… and have them lead us into and through the story.

In this regard, we can invert the old saying “seeing is believing” to “believing is seeing.” That is, if we believe our characters exist in their own unique story universe, then we can eventually see them.

I’m reminded of an observation made by the French author Jules Renard:

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.”

This belief can be the foundation of everything else involved in the process of creating a story.

The story universe exists.
The characters exists.
Their personal histories exist.
Their interpersonal relationships exist.
Their intrapersonal dynamics exist.

So there is believing all of that narrative content exists. But there is another aspect to belief in the act of writing.

I happened upon a story the other day at the excellent site Creative Something hosted by Tanner Christensen (@tannerc). It speaks precisely to this point:

Some years ago Sir Ken Robinson, the author and creative advocate, once told a story of a six year-old girl in school.

The girl was sitting in the back of the classroom drawing when the teacher walked back to her and asked “What are you drawing?” The girl said “I’m drawing a picture of God.” To which the teacher laughed a little and replied: “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the little girl said “They will in a minute.”

The little girl not only had a belief that God existed. She also believed she could convey her vision of God to others.

Whenever we take on the crafting of a story, we would do well to believe the story exists… its universe, its characters, it entirety.

We would also do well to believe we can bring that story to life in this world.

Seeing is believing? When we write, it’s more like this…

Believing is seeing.

Writing and the Creative Life is a weekly series in which we explore creativity from the practical to the psychological, the latest in brain science to a spiritual take on the subject. Hopefully the more we understand about our creative self, the better we will become as writers. If you have any good reading material in this vein, please post in comments. If you have a particular observation you think readers will benefit from and you would like to explore in a guest post, email me.

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For more articles in the Writing and the Creative Life series, go here.



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