I heard several profound things at Anime Oasis in Boise, Idaho, last week.
One panel I attended was on cosplay characterization. Now, cosplay is not something I do though my son loves to dress up in costume (also different than true cosplay where you not only look like the character but act as them too). I thought it might be interesting to see different people’s takes on getting into character. It might provide me insight into designing my own characters.
I wasn’t disappointed.
There were several things that I “knew” in the back of my mind, but that I hadn’t ever really put into practice. A lot of that comes from writing about heroic characters, I’m sure.
Now the actor who cosplays as Jack Sparrow was on the panel, answering questions as Jack Sparrow. He has attended several cons as Jack and does not break character, except for maybe when he actually met Johnny Depp. For the panel, they had a stretch of ten minutes or so where the actor removed his Jack Sparrow wig and answered questions as himself.
He said probably the most profound things I’d heard at the convention.
He asked the audience how many people liked to cosplay because they believed they were the character. Not only did no one want to respond, but everyone kind of looked around as if not sure if he’d lost his marbles.
I whispered to my son, “Does it count if we’re writing, not cosplaying?”
Then “Jack” announced that a character was not a person, but rather an idea. While I could see where he was going with this, it was also something I felt. He continued to say that you needed to have permission to access the energy of that idea.
I wonder if anyone felt as in agreement with that thought than me. I wonder how many people thought that cosplay was nothing but dressing up and pretending.
I have spoken about how my stories have an energy to them, a life of their own, and I’ve probably even mentioned it for my characters. Even Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic mentions how she didn’t listen to one story and it went to another writer. But the idea that you have to have permission from the energy to gain access to the idea really made me stop and think.
Does some permission come easier than others?
Loki’s novellas are very easy for me to tell, but yes, he came to me and started talking to me. I was receptive and he kept going. Believe me when I say that I’m not trying to think things up with his novellas; I’m always in too much of a hurry to get things down. He talks, I transcribe. But his energy is not always available to me. I feel it when he withdraws and when he wants me to focus on his story.
All of Sacred Knight and Onesong have been huge stories which feel bigger than me sometimes. I know I have to just keep treading with one foot in front of the other and not think about the whole picture. Yet, I also remember a time when I didn’t have permission to tell this story. It took years for me to get back to it.
Dragons of Wellsdeep is another that I don’t always have permission to write. As is Stonecharmer — in fact, it was only earlier today that I felt like getting back to it. Am I now ready to access another part of the story. Did something happen in my life which unlocked something I need for the story. Is it an odd sort of gamification that goes on? Did I earn a trophy that lets me pass to the next level?
But not only can I see it so clearly with my writing, but with my painting as well. As I’ve been thinking of this concept over the week of having to have permission to access the energy, I recalled writing at one point that I hadn’t really painted a whole lot since my mother’s death. I literally had a series of paintings that downloaded to my brain that day. I have not been able to paint them up. And since then, I’ve hardly painted. I feel as if I did have permission to see these scenes, given to me at a very trying moment, and I rejected them. Is it possible that the energy as a whole revoked it’s permission toward my painting?
Could this be the same reason I couldn’t write for several years (as I mentioned above)?
Yes, I can see it.
I remember feeling so distraught and lonely when I couldn’t write. It hurt. A friend told me I needed to grieve and I did. Once I felt myself healing from that, my writing came back. This wasn’t overnight, none of it. It was a long road.
I would like to avoid taking that long path with my painting. I do want to paint, as much as I wanted to write when I literally couldn’t. Yes, this feels similar. But now I know that I need to respect the energy and have it’s permission.
I don’t what this means, either for the short term or the long term, only that I do have a new respect for the artistic process both as a writer and a painter. Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be more to come.