Thursday, September 22, 2011

Goodbye to Banff

Wednesday night as I was thinking, after I wrote my last post, about what I wanted to do as a novelist, about the resources I have at hand for accomplishing this--a narrator's voice, the choice to creates scenes or summaries, the ideas about the world that shape these choices, every word in our rich language, the rhythms of a sentence or a snippet of dialogue, the ways I can capture the complexity and even inexplicability of human character--I was listening to the choral music of Arvo Part.  He's an Estonian composer of choral music that's minimalist and that has harmonies that call forth all that's beautiful in the human voice.  The Valentine Studio only has a little Sony CD player, but the lofty ceiling in my cabin makes it sound sublime.  While I listened to Part, the sound of a train added a dissonance that is also a kind of harmony in the mountains.  And beneath that there was the sound of wind in the lodge pole pines around my cabin, threaded through with the rustling that only aspens and birch can make.  I've done a poor job of describing this:  it can't be described, really, only experienced.

But I suppose what I'm trying to do with that awkward description is to talk about the creative act itself.  How it's made of plans and chance and accident.  Of course you need a vision of what you want to make.  But how often do you solve a problem by daydreaming in a coffee shop and hearing an exchange that in turn suggests possibilities that might get you out of the corner you've painted yourself into?  Or that might reveal that ill-lit corner of a character you want your reader to understand.  That you wanted to understand.

On some days, reaching out and touching the mind of someone else simply with your words is unimaginable, but must be done anyway.

And then on other days, your creative spirit is simply spent.  You want ordinary comforts like your husband and the purring of your crazy little cat.  And then you realize that they're not ordinary at all.

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