The marvellous Northern Irish painter Betty Brown and her portrait of Medusa.
There are artists and writers who believe ideas are fed to them from “somewhere else”, a parallel universe perhaps, where these images and characters and stories truly exist.
Clearly, that “somewhere else” is a very vague concept and means different things to different scribes: it could be a religious concept, a spiritual one, or even tied in with scientific theory such as ‘brane cosmology’. Whatever your persuasion, writers who hold such beliefs say it is very important to allow your mind to be open to receiving these ideas – wherever they come from.
Personally, I’ve had moments when I felt plugged into a conduit, receiving stories, characters and ideas fully formed, all wrapped up and ready to go – though I hesitate to say if this was a spiritual event or just the way the brain works in creative mode.
And it is a rare enough event – I can never conjure ‘the writing rapture’ but if I write often it’ll roll around every now and again. And when it does, it’s a magical moment when stories and characters cascade.
All we can do is sit down to write every day and hope for the best – most days you’ll get coal but if you keep at it, the diamond muse will show up sooner or later.
Freewriting is what you write when there’s no one looking. Freewriting is the madman in your brain taking the controls and sending words all the way down to the tips of your fingers. Freewriting is where you’ll find the most brilliant story ideas, if you look hard enough.
To freewrite, just write. Write the first word that comes to mind and then follow it with another. Set an alarm if you can. Don’t worry about grammar, structure, character development – just write. And when you’re done, stand back and take a look. Is there anything in there you can use. I’ll say there is!
Here’s an example:
‘Right now I’m sitting at my computer and the coffee cup is on the edge of my desk. It looks a little like an iceberg, as it is white and chipped and cold because the coffee has been in it since the morning as I didn’t do the washing up last night and the sink is full of plates and saucers. All those plates look surreal sitting unwashed in the sink like that. All at different angles like a Picasso painting with ketchup instead of paint dribbled over the plates. I wonder if Picasso got his ideas from waking up one morning and seeing his jumble of washing up in the sink I wonder if all the museums in the world actually have pictures of Picasso’s washing up and not his mistresses and Guernica and does that mean the joke is on us?’
The above freewrite might seem silly but it’s also an example of how freewriting could, potentially, inspire a proper piece of writing. This daft thought about Picasso’s washing up could easily be worked into a comedy radio play where a hung-over Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse wake up after a night out on the town and dare each other to paint a picture of the mess of washing up in the sink. Thus, the modern art movement is accidentally launched. Another possibility you could take from this freewrite is the concept that something generally considered ugly and in need of repair or attention (washing up) can lead to tremendous artistic inspiration – and this idea could form the kernel of a short story or a poem.
Here, chose one of the prompts below and let it lead you into a three minute freewrite.
I wish I had said….
It was no use pretending….
A long time ago…
For the first time ever….
I’m told many writers feel ideas are sometimes fed to them from “somewhere else”. That “somewhere else” is a very vague concept and means different things to different scribes. Nonetheless, writers who hold such beliefs say it is very important to allow your mind to be open to receiving these ideas – wherever they come from.
Certainly, I have had moments when I felt plugged into a conduit, receiving stories, characters and ideas. This is a rare enough event – I can never conjure it but if I write often it’ll roll around every now and again. And when they do, they are really magical moments when stories and characters come swimming to me, all done-up, pre-packaged and ready to go.
So who knows… one thing’s for sure, if you keep on working those brain-gym exercises, freewrites and the spidergrams – you’ll get something of the ‘writing rapture’ soon enough. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this….?
A friend sent me this Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk in which she “muses” on this topic. I think it’s must view for all creative types.