Welcome back to the blog! Today for the A to Z Blogging Challenge I have Caroline Gill with a piece posing a lot of questions.
There are always ways to improve writing. A new idea can transform whole genres.
What drives those transformative ideas, those break-the-world-open novels?
Questions. Life-changing, perspective-altering questions.
That’s why we write.
We are all in search of answers to rejection and hardship in our personal lives. Sometimes, most times, those visceral wounds can overpower us. In real life, in real minutes, days and hours are spent with staggering pain so deep we forget to breathe.
Many of us who love books cling to them like the shipwrecked survivors of the “Raft of the Medusa.” In the Louvre Museum, Paris, there is a vibrant red wall taken up entirely by this epic painting. It was a transformative artwork memorializing a horrific shipwreck that really happened two hundred years ago.
One hundred and forty seven people initially survived. Thirteen days of misery passed while they were stranded on the open ocean. The survivors floated on bits of debris for days while sharks circled, feasting. In the lightless dark of nightfall, companions vanished, swallowed by the sea.
The moment Gericault depicted was ten long days into the drift – ten days into hell.
In the distance, in the background of the painting, the remaining few survivors see the white of a sail. Lunging for anything to attract the attention of the vessel, the painted men lift each other up, waving fragments of clothing, anything they could use to attract attention. The painting by Gericault captures that moment of hope, that intense belief we have that rescue will come. Unfortunately, in reality, that tiny spot of white in the distance did not see them, sailing on across the vast horizon, unaware of their tragedy. The rescue that could have saved precious lives never happened on the tenth day, not even when the survivors hoped so fervently for relief.
Thirteen days after the ship ran aground, fifteen people were finally rescued by a different passing ship. Their horrific stories of cannibals, sharks, pitch black nights, death, rotting corpses, and vanished loved ones haunted all of France. That painting is a pure reflection of the struggles of authors and readers.
We are on that raft.
We live in that moment, holding our breath, waiting for the rescue. Again and again, we create our work, trying to save ourselves, trying to catch the attention of distant travelers. Often we fail. Sharks get some of us, pulled down by natural circumstances. Still, we hope.
After thirteen desperate days, the shipwrecked people ate anything or anyone they could find.
When there was no nourishment, people turned on themselves to feed the emptiness, destroying their values, traditions and minds. That is true of the hunger of imagination, too. In that moment of fear, when survival is all that matters, we are indeed capable of anything. Acting in a moral manner has huge costs, when there is no law, no rule, only anarchy.
Cannibals live amongst us. Creative cannibals that eat us from within: doubt, uncertainty, low self-confidence. Crazy and selfish people live in the internet world as well, stabbing at the light they desperately crave.
We learn that same truth every day: we get up, get dressed and live amongst the monsters. Sometimes just using that much effort is the whole battlefield. Still, we get up and we try again. Because of the possibility that perhaps tomorrow will be better. Rescue might happen.
Inside of all of us, there is this unquenchable fire. Poets have tried to describe it, but it remains elusive. Hope and determination cannot ever be adequately depicted or contained in words. That limitless fire burns us all the same.
The struggle we face daily is real. Life is unfair. Hope is often unanswered.
But every day we write, we read, we try again.
Because we know this simple thing: We are on the raft, desperate and wild, lawless and terrified. But we are also the captain of the distant sailboat, just near the vast horizon, waiting to find the brilliant light of a survivor’s torch, the mad wave of a shipwrecked man’s handkerchief.
And when that call comes, will you rise above your own pain? Can you travel out of your own journey long enough to help another?
We are the raft. We are the rescuers.
You want to write a breakthrough novel? Find a new way to get us home.
Cindy here again.
Loved this Caroline. It got me asking questions that led to a story idea.