“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.”
- Pablo Picasso
Artists of all types are on a constant search for clues to help unlock the stories they want to tell, whether it be through music, pigment, or the written word. Here’s an excerpt from Sherill Tippins’ February House, in which the young American author Carson McCullers experiences her big moment of illumination:
“Hard as she had tried for the past month – working at her desk for hours each day – she had still not managed to reach deeply enough into “the poetry of her own childhood” to find the center of The Bride and Her Brother, her developing novel. It was at times like this that Carson feared that her period of creativity was over and that she would never be able to write again. Unlike Auden, Carson could not simply make art happen by methodically processing the ideas and emotions of the day. For her, the development of a story was a mysterious, mystical process, like a “flowering dream.” It depended on faith and patience and could not be hurried or forced.
“… and now – running after the fire engine, laughing, and shivering in the night air – Carson experienced the moment of illumination for which she had been praying. The key to her novel, the image that would allow her to continue, had emerged at last. “I caught Gypsy’s arm,” she would recall, “and out of breath said, ‘Frankie is in love with her brother and his bride and wants to be a member of the wedding!’
“Gypsy looked at me as though I had gone insane,” she added. For Carson, however, months of confusion had ended in an instant. She burst into tears, leaning on the taller Gypsy in the near-freezing air. It all made sense now.”
That’s all we want, isn’t it? For things to make sense.