The writer taken over
“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
Back in december one of my friends came to London and we met a few times and talked about this and that.
At some point I began telling her about my writing process and how sometimes, during the course of the story, a character decides for herself what to do or where to go, despite the initial course I set out for her.
As I was saying this my friend looked at me and laughed and said that everything I’ve just said sounded crazy, that it’s still me who does the writing and while she was right, she was also wrong. Because while it’s my hands that do the writing, there are times where a mind different than my own does the storytelling and I can’t help but follow.
In her book “Negotiating with the dead” Margaret Atwood has an essay called Duplicity: The jekyll hand, the hyde hand, and the slippery double. Why there are always two. In it she talks about the relationship between the two entities that live inside the one we call ‘ the writer’:
By two, I mean the person who exists when no writing is going forward – the one who walks the dog, eats bran for regularity, takes the car in to be washed, and so forth – and the other, more shadowy and altogether more equivocal personage who shares the same body, and who, when no one is looking, takes it over and uses it to commit the actual writing.
Borges too takes the idea of doubles even further and talks about it in his piece Borges and I where he discerns between himself and “the other one, the one called Borges.”
I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me.
He concludes the text by saying “I do not know which of us has written this page”.
And my, isn’t this interesting?
I used to watch and read lots of interviews and materials about writers and writing and at first, some of the things they said didn’t make much sense, they even sounded a little weird. I was in the same position my friend was.
However, as I worked on my own writing, this magical thing happened. I was suddenly experiencing things I’ve only heard about, things that didn’t seem as strange and unbelievable as before. Those experiences are very much related to the process of creating something and being fully immersed in it. And it is this process that I find most fascinating.
Of course, writing doesn’t always feel like a magic trip. I have my bad days and if I were you, I would stay as far away from me as possible (just kidding, but am I though?). Still, I love the process and all that it brings, this exciting and fascinating journey with so many things to discover and learn.
If you create things or make stuff and tell people how it feels like, you might face some raised eyebrows and find it hard to explain in a way that doesn’t sound odd and that’s ok. Keep on creating, do your thing and enjoy it.