Author and Doppelgänger in Training
If you're anything like me, you're now repeatedly contracting and extending your fingers and calling me a liar.
I’ll fall back on one of my favorite arguments. Bill Bryson said it, so it must be true. I'm currently reading his fascinating The Body: A Guide for Occupants, and it's full of staggering facts such as that nugget.
Our fingers are muscle-free sticks of articulating bones controlled by tendons attached to muscles in the palms and forearms. We’re uncomfortably close to puppet territory here, people.
After I read that fact, and watched my hands ball up a half-dozen times, I thought about how this makes me feel as a writer. If you’d asked me to describe my writing process, it would have started with “brain” and ended with “fingers.” But now that I know that one end of the chain is false, I’m examining my assumptions about the other end.
I’m not prepared to admit to willful characters taking over the narrative or channeling dialogue while in a fugue state.
When I’m stuck in the middle of a chapter, it’s because I’ve learned something new. Maybe the character, the plot, or the world I’m building has changed since I planned that bit.
My brain is letting me know through the not-so-subtle method of the silent treatment, that the planned plot point no longer fits.
It’s the same when the words seem to arrive faster than my poor, weak fingers can tap them out. It’s usually because I’ve planned well, I’ve slept enough, and my three beautiful children are being quiet for a few minutes strung together.
In other words, I’ve done the work to earn the ease.
But, the fingers have no muscles. The strength of what comes out of my fingertips is generated just a step back. And the brain, while not sporting visible connections to the outside world is much the same.
What you love, what you hate, what moves you, what scares you, what you can’t figure out. All those things are the muscles pulling the tendons that flex and uncurl the fingers. Creativity is like your fingers. It’s a tool strengthened by what your brain encounters, not just what your brain dreams up on its own.
Don’t feel guilty the next time you read a book, go to a concert, watch a movie, or take in whatever kind of art you like. You’re not ignoring your work, you’re at the creativity gym.