Intern Post, Briauna Kittle: How the Writer Got Her Start: A Look at the Art of Creation

Humans have always been obsessed with how things came to be. Originally, this started with existence, how humans arrived on Earth, how our planet was formed, what caused the lights in the sky; once those topics were milked for all they were worth, these stories narrowed down: how the rhino got its skin in the classic porquoi tale best told by Rudyard Kipling, how narcissism created the echo and reflection from the Greek myth, or why male genitalia looks the way it does as given in the Winnebago Trickster Cycle from the Winnebago Native American oral tradition. Perhaps the most interesting thing is how the same stories are told in a multitude of ways. This could be attributed to use of oral tradition, the passing down of stories through voice, carrying through different narrators with different styles of speaking and different interpretations of the same events. In this way, the story is always changing and refining through a never-ending cycle of editors in order to become the tales we know today.

woodcut of elephant getting its trunk

A woodcut by Rudyard Kipling showing how the elephant got its trunk for his book of porquoi tales, Just So Stories.

There’s something satisfying about creation, too, like scratching an itch you didn’t even know existed. The act of creation through writing, art, music, and crafts is highly valued, even though nobody wants to do it. Everyone dreams of writing a novel but taking on writing as a profession is still generally met with hesitance (“Creative writing? What do you plan to do with that, teach?”). However, in a more visual sense, such as works-in-progress videos by various artists or with crafts like crocheting or knitting, people are hypnotized. I find there’s nothing more calming than watching someone make a watercolor painting, and when the work is finished, I want to find the artist and thank them for allowing me to watch. When I crochet in public, I’m always greeted with a “What are you knitting?” (I’ve given up correcting them) followed by the person watching me work as I wrap the yarn around the hook and pull it through the loops.

The downside to creating is, of course, dealing with doubt. I don’t think anybody in creation stories ever doubted their actions, but being in the arts requires juggling doubt and dancing with failure. One of the ways I personally deal with this is by writing my own creation stories. I’ve found it kick-starts my imagination and returns me to the mindset of seven-year-old me who loved to write how things came to be, to the point of writing a chapter book about star formation. Creativity is a must, too. Why do snails have shells? Well, obviously, a snail started out as a slug and decided it wanted to become strong, like the ant, so it found a shell to live in and now carries its own house on its back as a strength building exercise. It’s unscientific but gives us a new way of looking at the world which is exactly what literature and the arts aim to do: show new perspectives so that we may live without hurting others. Bonding through any form of creation, especially through storytelling, gives us the chance to understand something new, both in intellectual and empathetic standpoints. Even if your next work doesn’t make you the next Charles Dickens, it’s still creation and has the possibility to change someone’s viewpoint. Even if it’s not something you want published, tell the story to a few friends and tell them to pass it on to someone else; in a few generations, you’ll have a masterpiece.

Guest Blog Post, Philip Gross: Three a.m., in Boston

Philip Gross at Boathouse (Stephen Morris)Twelve storeys up in Boston (yes, that’s in British-English, where storeys are not the same as stories) – three days into the word-storm of AWP… I wake after three hours sleep, on a still-visible tidemark of my home time zone. Other tidemarks show through, like one left by Anne Carson’s reading yesterday evening – the point-by-point enumeration, with the sound of logic, of a train of thought… What I sit up and write isn’t imitation, isn’t homage, and is nothing to do with her meaning. At three a.m. a tone, her tone, feels like a place, a set of inner rooms (look, with numbers on them). You can walk through them. Pausing. Glancing around a little guiltily, an interloper. Not quite sure if you’re welcome. But trying the sound of your voice, how it echoes, in each…

                                                   Theses at three a.m.

1. That even starting from nowhere, going nowhere else, still simply the numbering of things creates a sense of movement. An illusion… as innocent as a painted backdrop hand-winched along outside the window of a train in an early motion picture.

2. That I catch myself believing that’s what they did – the hand-winching, I mean – because I’ve written it, though I don’t have a shred of evidence.

3. That this too is a kind of movie. Stop-motion animation of a thought like Play-Doh or Plasticine.

4. That human figures made from Plasticine or Play-Doh, from beach sand or mud, grow naturally between our fingers, where they have a kind of life.

5. That somewhere a mullah might even now be denouncing a child for doing that thing, unthinking, with blasphemous hands.

6. That God might, secretly, be eaten up with fondness, at the sight of these blunt malformed child-made creatures. Sad too, knowing that they cannot be allowed to live.

7. That somewhere in the floodplain mud, the alluvium, just outside the city, where the shanties go up, is a lump that desires to be golem.

8. That it was people’s crying out for order, in unformed mud-voices, that set the golem’s mud-tread going in the alleys of Prague.

9. That Golem, in his off hours, must have dreamed of river beds. Or been afraid to sleep, always hearing the drying and trickling away of his skin.

10. That the mullah too wants to get some order into the sticky, the palpable world. For its own good.

11. That, equally, a monk might nail a numbered list of theses to a door, thud, thud, and hear the echoes spreading like the tread of boots.

12. That form is always, in God’s eye, reformation. And creation always recreation.

13. That the rabbi of Prague too watched his hands at their work, and wondered what was being done.

14. That a word breathed in to it made all the difference.

15. That in the breath of ‘thesis’, melting one way into ‘this is’ and the other into ‘these’, we already have a hint of number.

16. That verse was born from voice-mud, in the hands of recreation, with a hint of number, with a hint of tread.

17. That Thesis and Antithesis were a marriage made in Heaven, or in Hegel. Ask their only child, Syn.

18. That there’s always some danger when mud-shapes begin to conceive of themselves. (Aside from God: Don’t I just know!)

19. That each poor bare forked and early Play-Doh figure is somebody’s niece or nephew or great-great-grandchild’s thought nearly conceiving what it is.

20. That to give a child a doll too lifelike, too eyelash-blinking-perfect, is uncanny. Too made already. Too far from the true cloth or true plastic, let alone true mud.

21. That now CGI can seamlessly make seem such perfect monsters, we maybe have to hand-winch the backdrop, as clunky as this, or get clumsy as toddlers, just to reassert a sense of what is true.