Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

There’s been a sense of dissonance with my author groups that I’m part of lately. So many of my friends used to be pushing toward that next book, that next project, the next book festival, and getting excited about what was coming next. Now though so many of them are despondent when they look at their author career, and it really isn’t surprising why.

Some of us have been in quarantine for over three months even while others are able to go freely where they want. Many authors I’ve spoken with are in the same boat, either due to their own health issues or for loves ones. Then the protests began and the excessive use of force from police departments kept me glued to live feeds every evening near curfew to see what would happen, to keep an eye out for people on the ground. I had friends get involved in protests who had to run away from tear gas and rubber bullets. Still the violence hasn’t stopped. Just the other day a police officer killed a black man for falling asleep in his car here in Atlanta. There’s a constant sense of outrage and desperation right now that’s impossible to miss.

It’s difficult to write when your heart is bleeding for the world around you. It’s difficult to put aside your fears and worries when you see all the people risking their lives daily to be heard.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Stephen King called writing telepathy. After describing a scene, he writes the following in his book, On Writing.

This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.

I think back to this concept regularly when I’m struggling with my writing. Creating a scene or a character for readers to identify and care for is an act of telepathy, and if an author has a hard time expressing the image they have in their head, or worse yet, if they have a hard time even picturing the scene they want to convey, then static comes across the line. Readers pick up on that static, whether they realize it or not. They feel the loss of focus or a character doing something that doesn’t make sense. They feel that discontinuity.

When the world feels like it’s on fire, authors can have a hard time channeling their minds into words. It’s understandable that there’s static. It’s understandable to get frustrated because it’s too hard to focus and the words won’t come out. It’s okay to feel like the characters aren’t behaving properly. It’s impossible to extract writing from the time and place that it was written. As creators of worlds, people, and locations, authors need to be aware of the static that gets in the way and allow it to exist. Sometimes the static is there for a reason.

Somehow over the past couple of months I found the mindset to write a book, Chosen, the last book in the Stolen series. I finished writing it a month into quarantine and finished editing it after the police violence at protests began dying down last week. I focused my outrage and pain into my novel, into my characters, and into scenes which ended up being eerily similar to the scenes I read about online. I had characters house protagonists despite risking their lives to do it. I had enemies hide behind their military troops. I had powerful characters admit that they were in too much pain to carry on in battle.

Basically I allowed the real world to infiltrate my book world in a way that expanded the world. I allowed some crossover, but only if it made sense. I channeled the emotions I felt from hearing these stories and from watching these horrors. Sometimes I realized the crossover was happening as I wrote the book, but other times I didn’t realize it until I was editing.

I know that the writing process is very different for everyone, and that we all have different ways of coping with the stress going on in the world, but I hope that hearing how I have come to terms with it helped. Chosen was meant to be written during this time and it is truly reflected in the storyline.

My advice is to listen to that static and see if it can push you in the right direction. See if it’s trying to encourage a change of direction or a change in a character. I hope you find a way to continue your craft despite the difficulties we are dealing with now and on the long road ahead.

15 thoughts on “Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

  1. Thank you for sharing–your experience is motivating and calming. Yes, we need to pay attention to the world. Yes, as it becomes part of us, it will become part of our writing. Congratulations on finishing the book! The speed is impressive to me. Best wishes with your next projects. We’ll all breathe and keep going. : )

  2. Whoa, for a second there, I thought you were saying authors careers were lagging, BECAUSE of Black Lives Matter, like Black Lives Matter is at fault. It’s the placement of the photo that threw me. I think if you move the photo down, the context will make sense. Good post, though. 🙂 Congrats on finishing Chosen! That’s amazing!

  3. It has certainly been emotional times and having a creative outlet is so important. While the world is tearing down, if we have the ability, we need to build. Writing allows us to confront ourselves first and understand how we feel. For the past few weeks, I’ve been writing a joke a day. Something funny… perhaps never shared, if nothing more, than to just make myself laugh. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and best of luck to your new book!

    • See, that’s great!

      I will say not everybody can create during this time, and that’s perfectly okay. The current state of our country puts people’s lives in danger, and it’s hard to concentrate on anything if you’re worried about being killed every day or are on the verge of a panic attack. Personal health and safety always comes first. The words will come when they’re ready, that’s how I see it.

      Thank you for this!

  4. I have often marveled at how magical stories are.
    Two people who never meet have this very intimate interaction, an interaction that exists outside of time.

    And I can definitely relate to what you’re saying, the challenge of writing amidst “all this.”
    Someone asked me a similar question and I answered “Writing involves imagining many emotions, many perspectives, and before I can do that, I need an inner calm that doesn’t slant me in any specific direction, an emotional blank canvas, as it were.”
    And yes, right now, it is very hard to find that calm.

    If life experiences are the “compost” from which “stories grow” then it can be very hard for anything to grow when it’s constantly being buried under large waves of fresh “compost” coming in.
    Just “processing” all that’s happening in “real life” right now can prove quite a taxing process.

    Congratulations on finishing your story.
    I’m glad you were able to put these experiences to a positive purpose.

    • I entirely agree with you. Sometimes it just feels like more and more just keeps coming in, overwhelming us and squashing out any creativity or motivation. I’m fortunate that I was able to find a way to push through this for my book, but I know so many authors are still struggling. This week alone I’ve helped so many authors and friends deal with emergencies and panic attacks from the state of the world.

      You’re absolutely right about emotions needing to be a blank canvas. We take in the emotions of our characters and if we can’t make that at least sort of a blank canvas to start with, it’s hard to conjure up the characters in our head. It’s hard to transport our minds to these places and disconnect from “all this”.

      I think we all have different ways of writing, different ways of coping and finding inspiration. It’s just finding our own way to craft amid it all.

      You really said this all way better than I did! Thank you for this insightful piece!

      • Thank you, most kind.
        Politely, I think you said it very well, and there may be an element at work akin to how “food always tastes better when you’re not the one who makes it” because you don’t have a hand in “building it up to what it is.”
        None the less, thank you. It is most flattering, and in these times positive stories and complimentary remarks are very important.

        Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

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