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As wordsmiths it is easy to become obsessed with definitions, with steps and cues, with lines, and the manipulation of those lines. Art can resemble a science; the creative process becomes just that – a process, a string of impossible questions and frantic answers, systematic and unwavering. There are theories and rules, guidelines to control the streaming, each wave building further uncertainty and expanding definitions. Layer upon layer. The movement compels further movement, always forward, sustained by its own momentum and governed by the thin lines and strings of our own devising.

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The creative process is just that – a process. And it is a consuming one. The act of creation propels itself, inspires itself, as it narrates its own creation. It’s easy to be consumed the process, with the external narrative of creating. We forget then, that our work isn’t about definitions and it isn’t measured by its process. We cannot simply be creative; we cannot simply be writers. We must create something; we must WRITE something. And that which we write, that something, cannot be a mere abstraction. It must extend beyond its narrative, beyond its own eternal possibility, and assume a physical presence in the world.

While it is nice to be a writer and to be in the process, always, of creating, it is far better to have created. Definitions of self, of identity, of who we are are meaningless when it comes to our art. Our art is not an extension of who we are becoming. Rather, it must be something, its own presence, a word, an object, a book, a sound – something to inspire movement, to assume and build upon the stories of others. It is in this exchange that meaning is created and that we (and our words) become something more than our individual symbols and definitions. We are not defined by a process, but by a product and by the way in which this product lives and expands beyond us and our vision – by what it becomes as opposed to who we are becoming. By all the ways that it becomes unrecognizable to us.altered books

It’s hard to remember this. As a writer, so much of my work is wrapped up in abstractions, in ideas. The “something” that they create can easily be confused the process of their creation. And it is easy to settle. Whereas a sculptor can see the difference between each, for a writer, it’s more difficult to recognize the presence created by language; it’s easier to define ourselves in our own terms, our own language, as opposed to accepting and opening ourselves to the definitions of others, our readers.

But we must. I read once that words are just words – they are. But in the hands of a reader, words become something more. The trick? They must be read first.

And so, I retreat back into my maze of half finished projects, of hopeless dreams, and rambling notes to create something, to publish something, to become something. We cannot live our lives as partial verbs and phrases. Eventually, we all become nouns, the objects of our own wandering.

 

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