Opening the Inward-Looking Eye
That’s how I think of it: getting into the proper space to build a world and make a story. I must be able to see it through the lens of my imagination, yes, but … opening the inward-looking eye has to do with more than seeing/imagining. It has to do with finding my way to a place of resonance. A place where words become magical building-blocks and the right ones (or as close as I can come to capturing them) seem to flow through me rather than from me. It’s a near-trance state where I can set aside my Self and just let the story happen. No ego allowed. When I am able to see my way to this place, the best stories are born.
I was happy in this flow, seeing clearly with the inward-looking eye, when I wrote my books. And then, life happened. I had things to do and see to in the real world that overrode all literary concerns, and even though I wanted to write, I could not see the shapes of the words I needed. I wrote what I feel are some good stories during this time, fumbling in the dark. A writer always knocks away at it. But the special magic eluded me, and writing was more hard work than thrilling fun.
Recently, startling me, the inward-looking eye opened again. I am ecstatic and frightened. With the eye open and seeing into that deep place, I am compelled to think and dream about story, write bits of story as they come to me (MANY stories), and wrestle with language that feels made of fire. I am consumed with the need to write, and I have become, I know it, absent-minded and dreamy, prone to long silences and solitude, unmoored from real-world cares. I am looking into the drifting world of phantoms shown me by the inward-looking eye.
I still have a life to run. I have a day job, a home, a garden, a cat. I have to pay bills and cook dinner, fill my gas tank, and socialize with friends and loved ones. None of this stops as the other world of story seeps in, demanding a sizeable share of attention. I’m certainly nobody’s guru on these things, but I’ll share my theory on how to open the inward-looking eye, and how to manage it once it opens. In a word: stillness.
To allow the eye to open, I had to become still and quiet in myself. I had to invite it, free time for it, and be willing to look through it. That may seem easy enough, but simply saying I wanted to see and write was only a beginning. I had to admit to myself that seeing through the inward-looking eye was a gamble, with no guarantee of reward. I had to accept the sacrifices I would need to make for it to open. These, for me, included that most precious of commodities, time. I opened the hours, the days, I would need to spend at my demanding oculus. Then I opened myself to it, allowing it to take what it needed of attention and devotion, even if it made me a little weirder and more distant for a time. I gave up any idea of directing it, forcing it to look where I thought it should look, and relaxed into download mode. I let the eye show me what it will, and I faithfully record it.
It is a difficult thing to relinquish control. We have little enough over the vagaries of life, and anxiety often drives us to grueling over-vigilance and effort. But I really wanted to write again in that free and magical way. To create stories, and a novel, that will fly out into the world and, hopefully, delight readers. I want the ability and the chance to do that more than I want a lot of other things. Dreams of wealth, fame, and perhaps even awards are all lovely, but they are dreams of the ego and cannot drive my desire. I do not have to cede space in my psyche to them. I can be a pure conduit for story. Now, at the writing stage, mining for story and shaping the raw, shimmering material are all that matter, and I have stepped out of my own way for a time. There will be time for more worldly concerns later. The inward-looking eye is awake and dazzling.