Why do people create? Why do they choose not to create? How do they create, what is their process? The creative urge absolutely fascinates me.
For many years – until I was 31, to be exact – I refused it. I told myself I wasn't creative. And then, I experienced a series of strange and wonderful synchronicities – good, bad, and unsettling. The only way I could make sense of it all – and myself – was to put pen to paper. I've never looked back.
The creative impulse is definitely a theme running through The Pilgrim Glass. What drove the pilgrim to create the offering? Jonas to repair it? What drove Meredith to photograph in black and white, Dubay to morph his creative urge into something more spiritual?
Here are two short passages, which I think illustrate the creative urge, its expression in art, and the great reverence Jonas feels for it, deep down in his bones…and the powerful intimidation in learning to accept your creativity and find your own way and your own voice. These sections are from Chapter Nine, when Jonas first sees Sainte-Chapelle, during a visit with his friend Steve.
The afternoon had been dull and grey, making the windowed walls glow as if lit from within, as if the alchemy of sand and heat and color had created its own spiritual form that hovered over the long chapel. Jonas emerged from the lower chapel's dark spiral staircase into the shivering glow. "Dear God," he muttered, releasing his breath in a sigh, his eyes wide and an astonished grin spreading across his face. He felt strangely as though his eyes were somehow not created to comprehend this, that he must look everywhere and all at once and still not really take it in.
He stood rooted at the threshold, feeling as though time was moving around him in swirling eddies. And then, the sun had broken through clouds and the world had become glittering and his heart expanded into those eddies of time. Even now, ten years later, he could still remember that moment, when it was all new and wondrous, as if he was seeing colors and shapes and light for the first time.
A strange feeling came over Jonas, confusion and elation combining, making him dizzy. "Well, look at it. Look!" he said, his voice rising above the stirring plainsong. "Look how they made that figure come to life – really come to life – more than a painting can really do. Do you know what I mean?"So what drives you to create? What inspires you? What frightens you about creating? How do you express yourself? What blows you away, like stained glass did for Jonas? I'd love to hear your stories.
"They're lit from within, they're alive, and it's not just trickery of paintwork and brushstrokes. It's genius…"
"Don't tell me you're swearing off painting," Steve said, looking at Jonas. "Who will I share studio time with?"
"And look at the lines, the forms," Jonas continued, ignoring Steve and gesturing to the north lancets, the stories of Genesis and Exodus.
Steve swiveled in his seat to look at Jonas. "Seriously, you're not going to stop painting, are you?"
Jonas ignored him. "How did they do that?"
"I dunno," Steve replied impatiently. "Faith."
"If you say so," Jonas replied, staring around the chapel.
They sat together without speaking, Jonas taking in the chapel, Steve shooting sidelong looks at Jonas.
"You know what?" Jonas asked finally, his voice hollow.
"Nothing will ever be as beautiful as this," he'd whispered. "Nothing."
Julie K. Rose is the Brooklyn Scribbler's inaugural New Voice. She is the author of The Pilgrim Glass, available now.