Tuesday, 20 May 2014

The Religion of Solitude

07:30:00 Posted by Damp incendiary device , , , , , 6 comments
Over the years, I've adjusted my definition of a 'writing space'.  This is due to a shift in the way I perceive writing.  Earlier, I considered the process of setting glyphs on a page to be writing but as I've progressed I find that more of the writing process takes place in my head, before a pen touches a page or my fingers feel the keyboard. 

So much of writing is, in fact, contemplation of writing.  Not thinking about writing is writing.  Reading is actually writing.  All of these actions are part of writing.  For these tasks, I don't need a desk or ink.  Solitude is helpful but not always essential as external suggestions, unwitting or not, can be as vital as any prior knowledge or hard won epiphanies. 

The writing space which my mind desires is more about tempo than dimensions.  In order to observe, to really see what's around me, I must first be still.  And slowness is hard won.  It requires that I deliberately jettison anything which is pushing or tugging at me; distractions and tasks which seem important but can, in fact, be thrown aside without injury or harm. 

Here's a test which you can use to find out whether you are ready for writing.  Ask yourself:
  • Am I content to sit quietly without the need of a purpose?
  • Am I happy for long periods to pass before a thought troubles my mind?
  • Can I tolerate silence without being disturbed by the need to fill it?
If you can allow the silence, the lack of voice, to exist and not be troubled by the emptiness, then you have found the space to write.  And by writing I mean inviting some small thoughts to gather.  Notice what was always there, but invisible in the fog of activity, and capture it in your mind.  Leave it there, like a vase of flowers on a mantelpiece.  Decorate your mind with other observations and allow them to share the space in peaceful room at the back of your mind.  Then walk, breathe, live.

Writing will take place.  When you have finished writing, then you can start to rearrange shapes on a page.




Colin Davies said...

Here here

Christo said...

Very much agree, Vicky.

It has been instructive attending the Workshops led by others having been involved for so long as I was in organising the circumstances for students and pupils to improve the quality of their thinking, analysing and creativity.

And to recognise how often I have chosen to fill the classroom with sounds, mine and theirs, instead of trusting silence and contemplation.

I shall leave this alone for a while (something we have been encouraged to do by Sarah Hymas following last Sunday's Walking on Wyre Workshop at the Wyre Estuary Country Park study facility at Stanah - the poems need time to gestate, and each one of is is pregnant, if you will).

There is so much in your piece which is worthy of comment.

LATERS (as our daughter-in-law tells me I must get used to saying),

vicky ellis said...

And here am I thinking I'm getting fat. Turns out it was just a backlog of poems waiting to be born ;)

Lara Clayton said...

Completely agree with everything you say here - a brilliant post, Vicky.

Jim Murdoch said...

We’re most definitely on the same page here. It took me a long time to understand how I write but I sometimes compare it to weight training which is picking up heavy weights and putting them down again, right? I got into this back in my twenties and very soon realised that there’s a lot more involved. You have to take in food first of all, lots of it and the right kind of food; you have to digest that food properly; then you exercise and according to a regime; then you rest. You cannot write without taking in information. For some people watching Coronation Street and Eastenders will do but personally I need more engrossing stuff although I have nothing against television as a source of good ideas. Then you think about what you’ve watched. That thinking can take a long time and years later I’ll find myself dredging something up that’s useful but if I’d never read it or seen some show it wouldn’t be there for me to access. Then I write. Most authors have a schedule even if it is a loose one. It might only be an hour or two a day or till they’ve reached some arbitrary target. Then they stop and do other stuff and while they’re doing that they’re thinking about what they’ve written. It’s a process. But most of it takes place without a pen in your hand or your fingers poised over a keyboard.

I’m a big fan of boredom too. I’m rarely bored these days. Fed up—yes, scunnered—oh yes, but rarely genuinely bored, not the kind of boredom that you need to get to for the good ideas to come. I have a couple of article you might find of interest. The first one is here and there’s a link to the second part at the bottom.

vicky ellis said...

Wow Jim, that's practically a thesis! I think that boredom is actually a very useful tool in that it forces us to find ways to entertain ourselves. It feeds eccentricity and creativity. I'm never more creative than on a slow day at work. There is a fine balance to be had - a mundane, repetitive task is usually very stimulating for my mind.

One of my favourite comments on boredom came from the much missed Comedian, Linda Smith. She said that the trouble with kids of today is that they need more boredom. When she was a kid she'd go on long holidays to Wales and sit on a wall for long periods of time with nothing at all to do. They were, she said, the best times of her childhood.

I think boredom makes creatives our of us all. Bring on the boredom :)

And thanks for the links to some really fascinating ideas which I will take some time to digest.