On Waves and the Creative Process

The origin of things.

Where do ideas come from? What makes us think? What makes our brains tick? Sometimes when I read my own work, I feel like I’m just a conduit, a gateway between the ether of collective knowledge (whatever that means,) and the written word. Am I responsible for it? I do not know. I don’t remember ever looking for the story. Maybe the story needed to be told, and it found me. Some say it’s the creative process, but being creative, does that mean I’m the creator, the originator who put things in motion? or am I just a link in the chain of causality that goes on indefinitely in both ends – before and after I came along? If the latter is the case, then there is no start point, everything always was and forever will be, and there is no creator. But we’re still around, every one of us. Or are we? Well, I think so, and the thought accounts for my existence - Merci, Monsieur Descartes! I think my actions do have consequences. They make waves. Or maybe the waves are there – everywhere. According to quantum mechanics, everything is made out of waves, or at least there’s a good probability that it is so. I paddle for the one that comes my way, if I catch it, I will ride it to where it takes me.

And so, the story finds its way out through my fingers, slapping my protagonist with a similar dilemma. A historian, Andy Spencer has dedicated the best years of his life to expose a conspiracy that determined the fate of the planet. When his consciousness transcends him Sixty years in the past to the time and place of the subject of his research, he finds himself asking the same existential questions. In fact, this piece may as well be an excerpt from Andy’s journal, dating back to December of 2001, right around Christmas time. His book was just released and already was making waves – just in time for the holidays. He’s offered an op-ed in the Boston Globe, or one of the respectable publications of the historians' circles he’s a respected member of, now that he’s a rising star. But he chooses to keep it to himself - This is not a spoiler just a possibility in the aftermath. But Andy is a historian, his writing is not pulled from mere ideas in the ether. It is based on concrete associations to real people and events that shaped the course of history, so how could he possibly conceive the thought that he has an active role in the big game, especially when the game was played decades before he was born. And yet he does. His actions bear consequences. They make waves (or amplify existing ones.) There’s evidence to it. But why is he there in the first place? Even if what he is experiencing is all in his head (a highly unlikely scenario – but still a possibility,) how did it get there? He certainly didn’t will it. It could be that his life-long passion and dedication to history prepared him to be the right contender for the part. And where did that come from – what kindled the fire of his passion? the war stories he heard from his veteran grandfather as a child? I can keep asking these questions, but this blog has to end at some point…Andy is a product of everything that came before and a thruway to everything that follows. The universe is expanding at a very fast rate, and therefore, everything is constantly in motion, like waves. Andy caught a big one and rode it all the way in.

I’m not going to attempt to generalize this into a universal theory. Some of us out there may still be fully and solely responsible for their actions (we’ll let the courts decide.) I can only speak on my behalf. The question I keep asking myself (and I’m sure many other writers do) is how did I come up with this story in the first place? Or let me rephrase – how did the story come to me? Come to think of it, there were pre-existing conditions that set the stage for inception. For one, growing up as a third-generation descendant of Holocaust survivors, the aftermath of the second world war hovered over my childhood and early adulthood with a frail (but evident) ring, like the cosmic microwave radiation remnant from the big bang. Throw some philosophy classes I took as an undergrad into the mix, and the door opens wide for those existential questions to pour in along with a narrative, an unaccounted-for guest I had to acquaint myself with. You see, unlike those prone to be authors from the get-go, English Lit was never my strong subject; I was more of a math and sciences guy through my school years. And yet, the guest never left. It stretched its stay and became a household member for nearly two decades now, imposing its inevitability. There was no point fighting it, so I just let it grow. Perhaps it’s in my DNA. My grandmother was a writer, my grandfather an editor, and so they met and had four children, the third of whom is my mother who turned out to be a well-respected high school literature teacher. Whether I like it or not, there’s clearly a pattern here, similar to the one that set the course for Andy. There are times when I feel there’s a reciprocal bond between Andy and I; As much as I contributed to shaping his character, he gave back to me (Is that even possible?) Not that we are one and the same, far from it. We are very different, not complete opposites, but we don’t have much in common either. My impact is confined to the boundaries of the story I wrote, where Andy carries the burden of saving the world as we know it on his shoulders. But maybe just like Andy, I’m a player, driven by the laws of nature, the ongoing conflict between chaos and order. My own volition may have but a little or no role in it.

If there’s one thing that I can generalize, it would be that there’s a limited timeslot allocated to each and every one of us. It’s on us to decide how we fit in it. Like Gandalf the grey said to Frodo Baggins in the dark caves of Moria “All we have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given to us.” I think I caught my wave, all I have to do now is keep riding it to where it takes me.