This is my freewrite from January 26th, 2017! Feel free to comment.
I think, that Carpenter is spot on for his interpretation of why Tolkien never finished his works, never sought for them to be published. Tolkien himself had long spent time theorizing how to put into words how he felt; not that he was displacing god, or was one, but that he was sub-creating within the world of creation he lived in. He cared for his creations, loved them as he owns because, in a way, they were him.
I’m an aspiring writer myself. The background to my computer is characters from a story I’m trying to write. I often spend hours working, thinking, drawing, writing, and rewriting their stories, trying to find a way to put them to paper, to share them and their struggles with the world. But….I am afraid. I am afraid of losing the life that they have, the sense of creation and adventure, exploration and opportunity that they represent as mere ideas. They are not bound to a fate, they are not written in their entirety, and their stories are unended.
Why? Because, like Tolkien, they stop being alive once they're written down. They take control over my thoughts, and drive me, as I obsess over them, to do things. To think things. To explore the world that I have imagined and created, and live with the ideas and philosophies that I love. But when they are written down, their narrative arc completed, where is there to go with them?
I fear that I will lose them in some way then. They stop being alive. This is why, in my experience, I often do Roleplaying sessions with them that are in great detail, but never write them down. I can get close to fully expressing them, letting them live, without ever having a word written down. I get to explore their lives, their choices, their thoughts as though I were writing them down but the only place they are cemented in is time.
So, I think that this statement by Carpenter is true. True of any writer, especially of fantasy. We not only create characters with whom we fall in love with and care about, we also create worlds, languages, civilizations, systems and magic that exist in some real, tangible way to us. It isn’t just a fantasy, it isn’t just an average idea lost in a sea of mediocrity, spirited away by the tides of the everyday mundane.
My characters are real. Just as real as Tolkien’s character were to himself. I want to share them with the world, but I also want them to be mine and mine alone. They are precious; and so others would treasure them as well, but in doing so I lose the primacy of my claim.
A literary critic, I believe, once said that the “Author is Dead”. This is a phrase here meaning that once the work is written, once it is published and given to others, the Author’s intent, perspective, etc., doesn’t matter anymore. The work takes on its own life and maturity, expresses its own themes and ideas that are separate, (perhaps), from the author’s intent. In this, authors are pressured into maybe not releasing everything, to keep working, especially on this like this, because we want to remain alive. We want something for ourselves.
I think is important however, like parents with their children, to eventually allow the work we have created to grow and mature. Eventually, it must necessarily leave the nest. The only other option is the most tragic one. No parent should ever have to outlive their child. No author’s work should die with them, unpublished, unknown. No author should have to kill their work because they refuse to let it grow and adapt.