So, I've talked about why I think creative writing can be taught, why it helps to be honest about your motives for doing it and how to get started. Now, although I am really suspicious of a lot of the quasi-mystical stuff that is spouted about writing, I'm going to add to the mix with some 'insights' of my own and talk about the curious double-mindedness of creative writing.
Whenever I start talking about this Eliot's words spring to mind - probably because I studied him for my 'A' levels and such exposure is not easily forgotten. He was obviously not talking about writing or creativity when he wrote them, or maybe he was, either way, if I can repurpose them for this particular application, they have a certain resonance.
Teach us to care:
You have to care about what you write. I mean you don't actually have to, but if you want other people to take from your writing the primary meaning that you intend, then you have to hone your sentences, put ideas in the right order, faff about trying to find precise word to encapsulate your ideas. You want to find the word with the right rhythm for its place in the sentence, the right register for its place in the piece. There is an almost endless of syntactic and semantic components to grapple with before you even get started on storytelling and I'll blog about them later. There's a lot you have to care about.
And not to care:
And yet writing, storytelling, is very straight forward: it seems to be hardwired into all of us. We tell each other stories about our day, our life, ourselves, all the time. Children tell stories as easily as they breathe. If you watch children's imaginative play it is all about unselfconscious story telling. In a way, creativity is like child's play, and when you write you have to access that open, slightly unhinged way of thinking. Children rarely stop playing to think about what might happen next, something just does: Barbie builds a spaceship, Mr Edward Bigbottom fights the stegosaurus and everyone is happy.
I am not saying that writers have to be children, but we do have to find within ourselves that confidence in our unconscious, what online friends of mine always call 'the back brain'. To quote a less erudite source that TS Eliot, 'If you built it he will come,' ( Field of Dreams) I'm not sure that I think inspiration is male, but if you start building the infrastructure of a story usually 'he' does come, often in unexpected ways. This involves a kind of abandonment, at least temporarily, of the critical voice in your head, and a willingness to just go with what unfolds. It can be hard for people trained in journalism, academia or factual writing to allow the madness in. Embrace it. Don't freight what you write with judgements and expectations, teach yourself not to care.
Teach us to sit still:
As I've mentioned, in order to write you have to sit or stand still long enough to pour words out onto the page, you have to shut off the world and your worries, to-do do lists and all the noise of your real life and find another place, the still place of concentration and total engagement. Watch how that child plays with total absorption. That's the place you need to find in your head.
Now look what I've gone and done, I've made it sound like a quasi-mystical process, a perilous equilibrium. It isn't and don't let this put you off. Try it. It isn't as complicated as it sounds.