Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Inner workings of a writer's mind

I'm researching for a piece on writers' own experiences of how they use different parts of their minds for different writing tasks, and if they are aware of this process. From what I know already, there are several viewpoints on what might actually be going on in there. Freud saw it as levels of consciousness: subconscious, ego and superego, working almost like separate entities. Some neuroscientists claim that the brain is like a number of parallel processing units all functioning at once, sending the task back and forth until it pops onto the screen of awareness. Psychologists talk about lateralisation, in which the two halves of the brain take dominance for different functions, and many books have been written about right-brain creativity, and how to harness it.

For my own part, I could almost be two different writers; if I let myself write purely creatively, the words and story flow onto the page, but I can't spell, punctuate, or write prose. If I consciously analyse my writing, my prose is great and so is my grammar, but I get mired down with detail, losing any creative flow. I regard these two aspects as my internal artist, and internal editor.

I'm interested to know how other writers find their inner workings. Given that it is National Novel Writing Month, it would seem to be the ideal time to give writers an excuse to procrastinate for a few minutes, have a look inside themselves, and let me know what they find.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The Bridge

Photograph ©John Spivey

I've been hard at work writing my novel, with a set daily routine of writing in the morning, leaving the afternoons to continue my illustration work. It's easy to forget, in this head down cycle of industriousness, how important it can be to get out and watch people, or soak up the atmosphere of a place. To be somewhere and write what comes into my head, not worrying about work, or other pressures, but just taking pleasure in the expression of my immediate thoughts and ideas.

The following two paragraphs were written a couple of months ago, during a reflective walk down to the river near the place I had called home for the previous two years, and was shortly set to leave. I came across them, jotted down in my notebook, while searching for some notes I'd made. It doesn't sum up the village, but my first view of the place was across that bridge, and it will always be lodged in my memory.

It could be on almost any worthy river in continental Europe, but it is not, this is England, and it languishes in lazy arcs between Devon's red and green hills. The bridge leaps across the somnolent waters in a single, elegant span, yet is wide enough for two trucks to pass between the low, cream tinted walls that run between the ball topped decorative pillars at either end. It has a feeling of solidity. The first bridge to be built from concrete, or so I'm told. A plaque on one of the pillars reads 1908 in cast metal relief.
Traffic continues to cross with intermittent regularity, not pausing to notice the clear deep waters flowing beneath. Further downstream a gull paddles along the lip of a weir, dabbling for morsels of food, seeming to walk on the water's smooth mirror, that carries the inverted view of tall poplars that march in jaunty procession along the left bank. On the upstream side, on either bank, stand twin buttresses of broken stone, the slightest curve at the very top of each, a hint of their former purpose: a ghost from before 1908, the remnants of the old bridge, demolished a hundred years ago, a victim of progress. A dead tree now lies submerged in the waters between, it's sunken branches caught on the tumbled stone that remains on the bed beneath the loosely swirling surface.

I must remember to take the time, to give myself permission, to sit, relax, observe, and write. It is from this calm state that the best ideas will germinate.

For any further images of this place, It's all here on Google Maps.