Since I just got back from three weeks holiday in the States, chaos is the perfect topic for today’s post. I never come home to an ordered world. I always come home to chaos because I almost always leave in chaos – never mind that I always swear to myself that THIS will be the time I will head out the door with my world well ordered and pristine. It hasn’t happened yet, though I am ever hopeful.
It’s amazing how much I can overlook when I’m writing. I’m always reminded of that when I come home from holidays. Usually, because I write till the last possible minute before I pack and get myself out the door, the house looks like a bombsite by the time I actually do get out the door. That, of course, means when I get back home all refreshed and anxious to get down to serious writing again, it still looks like a bombsite.
Usually I’ve fantasized about that moment all the while I’m on holiday and all through the journey back home – that fabulous moment of being back in my own space with just me and the laptop and words… lots of lovely, delicious, inviting words waiting to be written and shaped and infused with story. I never fantasize about the unpacking or the laundry or the clearing up of said bombsite. I never fantasize about making my outer world orderly before I get about the business of being creative. In fact, I usually do my best to pretend the unpacking doesn’t exist, at least until I need clean clothes to wear.
It’s not that I don’t like order. I like order a lot. It’s just that my version of order is, well… a bit different. My world seems most ordered when I’m creating chaos. Yup, that’s right. My world seems most ordered when I’m writing fast and furiously and I’m completely in the throes of the story. That always involves creating chaos. And if I’m doing it right, the chaos in my outside world will be completely dwarfed by the chaos of the world I’m writing into existence.
Then, once the chaos has reached critical mass, I set about restoring order with words put together in sentences, then paragraphs, then scenes, then chapters, and finally whole novels. I do my best to create a world that begins in order, blossoms into seemingly insurmountable chaos, then resolves into an even higher form of order. Isn’t that what story is all about?
The first thing a writer does is create chaos for her main characters. With no chaos, no conflict, there’s no story. Happy endings are just that – endings. What comes before that happy ending is almost always a voyeuristic romp for the reader into chaos and catastrophe with plenty of anguish thrown in for good measure. All the while the writer turns the bull loose in the China closet and wreaks havoc with hearts and relationships and, well, generally with everything. Writers love it when the situation is just about as chaotic as it can possibly get, when it begins to look like all is lost, and the reader is anguished for the characters and white-knuckle-page-turning, wondering how there can possibly be a happy ending in this mess. It’s at that point that the writer, in ways only writers can, sets about creating a higher order, one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. Viola! All is restored, love conquers all, and there might even be dancing in the street.
When I look at order and chaos through the eyes of a writer, and through the filter of story, it all makes sense, really. And I find myself less inclined to worry overly much about unpacking right this minute. The chaos hasn’t yet reached critical mass. And eventually, when it finally does and I turn my attention back to the world outside my head, it’ll all get sorted, one sock, one shirt, one pair of trousers at a time. And all the while I’m creating order in my outer world, I’m already scheming more chaos in my head.