NOTE TO SELF:
There is a time when it is all right for writers not to write. I’ll say this again so I’ll remember. There is a time when it is all right for writers not to write. It is time of preparation, and very much like putting over-cropped ground down to grass so the soil can regenerate. A time of fallowness then, but not of time wasting.
Before the real work can begin, there must be input, a drawing down of resources (like a tree in winter) – reading, researching and general planning. And when I say ‘not writing’ I don’t mean give up on the writing practice – the brainstorming-stream-of-consciousness splurge, the morning pages, verbal doodling, keeping diaries. In fact do more. These are the equivalent of a musician practicing scales, or a dancer taking the exercise classes before working on a performance. This kind of practice strengthens fluency and, if you’re lucky, opens pathways to your subconscious thinking. It is all part of making ready for creating new work. None of this is for public consumption.
Yet doing sufficient groundwork is probably what most of us balk at. We have been fed with the notion that the best creation only comes in a white-hot blast of inspirational outpouring. We wait for it to happen. And it may never happen. More likely as not, such an approach will become a self-fulfilling blockage prophecy.
Then we may we tell ourselves the lie that if we are not busy producing words for the work in progress, then we cannot call ourselves writers. This may prompt us to start a work too soon simply to convince ourselves that we are being productive. Too often this will also end in confusion, blockage and despondency.
Only when we know our subject in our hidden depths, down in our roots and under the bark, can we best deploy our conveyances (our words) to bring it to the outer world. And I don’t mean ‘know’ in every last detail. Or not exactly. I have in mind Michael Morpurgo’s way. This well known English children’s writer is also a farmer. When he is thinking about a new book, he tells himself the story over and over until he dreams about it. Then he goes out in the early morning among his sheep and tells them the story. Only when he feels it is going down well with the ovine audience does he begin the act of serious writing. In this way he has proposed, explored, processed and internalized a narrative before he has written a word.
What emerges is more likely to be a work that has intrinsic authenticity and consistency, as opposed to a narrative that has been imposed by the writer from outside, and often feels weak and poorly rooted.
So what do we need? Preparation, preparation, preparation.
But not too much either. I’m suddenly thinking of Edward Casaubon in George Eliot’s Middlemarch, he who ended up so obsessed with his researches that he left no time to write the book. So a balance in all things. The knack, of course, is to recognize tipping point.
copyright 2016 Tish Farrell