May 10th, 2019

Guiding Into Creativity

I recall with certainty that when I was in grade school, A Wrinkle in Time was one of the books a teacher chose to read out loud to our class (a chapter a day). I don’t remember whether it was in fourth or fifth grade, but I remember that that book was read to me.

In what seems to me both a strange and simultaneously typical circumstance, I have remembered exactly one specific scene and line from the book. That line I could quote almost verbatim. The rest of the book was entirely gone from my conscious memory, including the general plot, characters, beginning, and ending. I can say with confidence this is not likely due to anything about the book itself, since I have experienced such circumstances with numerous books and movies I know I read/saw as a child: frequently, I remember almost nothing about them except one specific line or several-second scene, which I can often quote exactly and/or describe in minute visual detail.

Why has my memory worked this way? I have no idea. I mention it simply to introduce the fact that a few days ago, I found myself drawn to read A Wrinkle in Time again. Even though it is a children’s book, and even though I know I was exposed to it when I was at the age for which it was intended. (Perhaps, in fact, especially for those reasons.)

In the back of this edition was a short interview with the author, Madeleine L’Engle. I noted that the two of us have in common that when we were kids, we wanted to be writers when we grew up; we started writing at a pretty young age (she at 5, I at 7); and English was our best subject in school. I also appreciated noting her response that A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times, and she had just asked for it back from her agent when she was introduced to the publisher who ended up publishing it.

L’Engle’s acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal for the referenced novel followed the interview in this edition. And there were things in this I truly found striking. (To be clear, I found the book itself striking and can easily see why it has become a classic and was so highly awarded.) The first quote I highlighted in the speech was,

“Because of the very nature of the world as it is today, our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity.”

While she was speaking specifically about children and children’s books, of course, I immediately felt a parallel with the writing of erotic fiction.

What I write is specifically not for children and instead exclusively for adults. However, similarly to the way that their “reading for fun, for pleasure” may “[guide chidren] into creativity,” as I experience L’Engle as so appropriately lauding and encouraging, I feel erotic fiction may “guide” adults into sexuality—not the superficial and often artificial “sexuality” that is so exploited and used in commercial culture, nor the tyrannical and puritanical oppression of it leveraged for political or social purposes, but a true appreciation of, respect for, and exploration around sexuality. An invitation to align with how we truly experience it uniquely and individually and what resonates with us about how we relate to this energy that is responsible for our being here.

Harkening back to part of the plot of the very novel I had just read, L’Engle’s acceptance speech goes on to describe the “forces working in the world . . . for standardization, for the regimentation of us all. . . . [T]he drying, dissipating universe that we can help our children avoid” by providing them with writing that invokes and encourages both imagination and creativity.

In the way that reading for fun and pleasure reminds kids to tap into these things, erotica may remind adults that sexuality is an intrinsic force in their lives and in our collective existence, not to be dismissed among the world of production/competition/frenzy our culture seems so oriented to at this time. That the connection, the awareness, the relaxation and pleasure that sexuality can espouse is as important and deserving of attention as such other things contemporary society seems to place so much emphasis on. L’Engle’s statement that, “Very few children have any problem with the world of the imagination . . . it’s our loss that so many of us grow out of it,” speaks to me of the importance of retaining the understanding of the significance of fun, relaxation, pleasure, play as we grow into our adult understanding of sexuality and its place in our lives.

As most who have ever read this blog or my erotic fiction may have gathered, I truly consider sexuality and eros important subjects, both for literary exploration and also in our everyday existence. I do not choose to write about them frivolously or lightly. In L’Engle’s acceptance speech for one of the most hallowed children’s fiction awards in the US, her proclamation of why she finds writing for children important resonated deeply with me in relation to why I have found writing for adults important.

And yes, in referencing erotica and my own writing I am speaking about actual sexual acts, but the sexual energy I have also referenced is far, far more than that. When L’Engle says, accurately as I see it, “A book, too, can be . . . ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,'” I perceive sex as also literally this, but ultimately, I recognize an inextricable link between sexual energy and the creative impulse, and I also recognize that they represent far more than any specific acts or connections with any particular person(s). Sex, after all, is the impetus for creating life. Sexual energy, far from being only about sexual acts or personal connection, is the foundation that manifests all creation and creativity.

In speaking specifically about A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle states that, “it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.” I both include and close with that quote because it articulates something I find, simply, one of the most magical things about writing.

Love,
Emerald

“Even the most straightforward tales say far more than they seem to mean on the surface.”
-Madeleine L’Engle

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