The writer as a vessel

I just finished writing a scene in my second book today, and it went well for me.  That doesn’t happen every day (actually, that doesn’t happen often at all), so I thought I’d record it.  For posterity and such.

It was my favorite kind of scene, the kind in which two characters are feeling each other out, and the dialogue takes them to places they never thought they’d go.  Or maybe they knew. But I didn’t.

This is the greatest part of writing fiction – when something develops nicely into an exciting piece of the puzzle you didn’t know you needed.  And a story line is deepened. And a character’s dimensions are revealed.  And you are allowed the pleasure of sitting back and watching it happen.

This is why I do this work.

Gilbert sharing some interesting view on creat...

Gilbert talking with TED.

I couldn’t type fast enough – the characters were sharp and snarky and were firing words at each other faster than I could record them.  And I was reminded of a TED talk my friend Maggie directed me to not long ago, given by writer Elizabeth Gilbert, in which she talks about the writer’s process, and introduces the lovely thought that (at about 5:40) maybe we are not the source of the creativity we convey, but that we are, instead, the vessel in which it is transported.

Beautiful idea, isn’t it?

If you’ve ever found yourself in a similar situation, when a character ripens without your explicit intent, you might relate to this idea.  Sometimes, we start writing, and we have a small idea of where it’s going to go and then something happens – SLAM – and we are suddenly thrown into a scene that’s out of our control.

It’s surprising when it happens.  And riveting.  And makes me look forward to writing again tomorrow.

If you listen to nothing else in this podcast, listen to the story (at about 10:13) of the American poet Ruth Stone, who used to work in the fields in Virginia and would “feel and hear a poem coming at her from over the landscape” and she’d have to chase it back to the house in time to get to a piece of paper fast enough.

Too bad she didn’t have a laptop.


Leave a comment


  1. vandevenbram

     /  February 26, 2013

    Great post!
    I love how Elizabeth Gilbert described creativity, in that story, as certain waves or tsunamis rolling through our bodies. I always carry something to write on, just in case 😉

    • Kim

       /  February 26, 2013

      Thanks Bram! I dictate those waves of inspiration to the voice recorder on my phone. If it’s ever lost or stolen, whomever it finds is likely to seriously question my sanity.

      • vandevenbram

         /  February 26, 2013

        Haha that made me laugh!
        I prefer saving those waves of inspiration in text form, under “Notes” on my phone. I like to avoid public embarrassment as much as possible.

      • Kim

         /  February 26, 2013

        Excellent strategy.

  2. Ohhhh, I can’t wait to read that scene. This post made me want to write, write, write! 🙂

    • Kim

       /  February 26, 2013

      Well, now that I’ve built your expectations … my fingers are crossed it doesn’t fall flat.

  3. That has happened to me on rare occasions and I live for it. I always feel like my best stuff is not my stuff!

    • Kim

       /  February 26, 2013

      Hey there, Mr. FULL TIME writer! Here’s wishing you many days like this to come …

      • Thanks! I’m just trying to follow in your footsteps and produce a great book!

      • Kim

         /  February 26, 2013

        I anticipate good things for you. Such a brave leap you’ve taken; I have no doubt it will pay off.

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