Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Like a roll of Bounty in a swimming pool

Absorption. I think this can be applied to writing. I think it's important to read widely and sometimes randomly. Every writer's work is different, but it is good to digest lots of different authors to see what works for you as a reader, and as a writer. The subconscious is a funny old thing, and we really don't know quite how it all works yet. Because we aren't conscious of it. Obviously. But the things we read don't just disappear I'm sure. I'm the most random of people who will get ideas and not know where the hell they have come from, but clearly my subconscious has scurried away to find something useful and splurt it out at the right moment. I attended a workshop yesterday where the creative process was mentioned, and it was likened to a state where we could just freely relax and let our subconscious do the work for us, and for many, including me that is the case. In the right environment I can sit and write and surprise myself at what comes out. If we can get into the state of 'flow' where it comes easily and prolifically then that is an amazing feeling, almost a state of play for me.

But the subconscious needs something to work with, and this is where reading widely comes in. We might think it's trash but it's worth reading to find out why it compels people to read it. It all is absorbed into the subconscious and may come in handy in the future, if nothing else to know what's already been done, what to avoid and what gives a story teeth. Read beautiful prose, read poetry, read trash, it can bubble away in there and come up with something unique. But trust it. Your conscious is for the editing process, and that can come later, when the playing is finished.

But this doesn't just apply to reading. Like an artist learns to 'see' the world in a different way to paint it we have to look at things closely in a new way, describe things with words in a way an artist would paint a scene. To avoid clich├ęd

writing we have to try and find a new way of describing what we see without verging into the old purple prose. There lies the tricky bit. It's worth it when it comes together though.
It's amazing how much the subconscious can actually absorb. I'm not a puritan, a bit of rubbish is good, just so you know what's out there. I'm not sure you need to actually feed it in any other way than just exposing yourself to more. Even if it feels uncomfortable it's got to be worth something, be absorbed and give something more to your work.

So if my writing seems grammatically incorrect at times, or a bit scatty, trail off somewhere else, it's just that I've tired myself out playing too much to tidy up afterwards. Note to self: Stop being lazy.


vicky ellis said...

I'm going to point to this post the next time I pick up some trash for shots and giggles: 'just feeding my subconscious a varied diet...this is the roughage'.

vicky ellis said...

shits not shots (I think we have another monthly theme!)

Christo said...

Only just got around to reading this, Lindsay, hence the delayed post.

You are quite right about imbibing all sorts, of course - reminds me of a frequent argument I used to have with Ray Fielding our school's Head of English with whom in most respects I got on well.

What he could not see is my reason for reading great wodges of American pulp fiction, and enjoying pop music when he urged us to read only classics and listen to great classical music.

Nowadays it is more acceptable for me to enjoy John Hegley as well as, say, Philip Larkin, and pop music of Lennon/McCartney and Leonard Cohen quality is no longer dismissed as pap.

Good self-feeding with your universal absorption. It may one day produce even a phrase of pure gold.