Over on Aliette de Bodard's blog, Nancy Fulda's posted a nice article comparing writing to sculpture. She takes as her starting point Michelangelo's famous line: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” She goes on to talk about how, through writing and editing, it's the writer's job to carve away all the unnecessary clutter, revealing the story hidden within.
Nancy's right on the button. But there's a spookier aspect to this whole sculpture analogy: the unsettling sensation that the story has been there all along - that I'm not actually writing the thing at all, just unearthing it, like a fossil.
I had a art tutor who was always talking about the physical nature of sculpture. He liked to work on a large scale, outdoors, stripped to the waist, sculpting "with my whole body." It's hard to equate such physicality with writing, although legend has it both Hugo and Hemingway used to write naked. Me, I stay clothed and comfortable, expending only the energy it takes to make my fingers to hit the laptop keys. So why do I come out of a writing session feeling utterly - and satisfyingly - exhausted.
There's only one explanation. The act of writing transports you to another dimension. Literally. Somehwere there's this beach where all the good stories are buried. It may look like I'm sprawled on the couch idling tapping my keyboard - in fact I've abandoned my body altogether. I'm stripped to the waist, digging at the dirt, trying to winkle out the story-fossils before the tide comes in. Occasionally I manage it. Usually it's a close thing. Often I drown.
When the fossils are free though, like angels, they fly.