Friday 29 January 2010

Writers' Minds

Do we ever stop thinking about our writing?
When I think of a story I tend to see it as film in my head.  I then need to work out how to turn that film in my head into prose on the page. I think about these matters when I’m driving or travelling on public transport, if I can’t sleep at night and when I’m daydreaming as I eat or drink. I sometimes get that spooky feeling that my characters are following me around.
Occasionally something else happens – this tends to be when I’m writing shorter prose – such as a piece of life-writing and even sometimes shorter fiction.  Then I actually hear the words in my head as if someone, possibly someone with my own voice, is whispering them to me. This is quite comforting: if I should ever go blind, I may still be able to work. So, I’m sort of playing and replaying. And I’m getting an idea of how it will sound in the reader’s head.
It seems that writers’ default mind occupation is their writing.    
A downside perhaps is that we can’t shut that inner editor up. As we read other people’s work, and as we watch films, we analyse and criticise. That of course develops our capacity to criticise our own work. Does this spoil our enjoyment? I don’t think so – it makes us enjoy texts in another way. Sometimes we can do both at once. For instance, I’m enjoying the Stephenie Meyers’ Twilight series. In fact, I can hardly put them down. Nevertheless, I’m still aware that she’s getting away with some things my students would never be allowed to do. Occasionally we meet that text that blows us away and absorbs us completely – Iain Laurence’s The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter did it for me. Maeve Binchy often does it as well. Even then, we start asking ourselves “Why does this text work so well?”  
It doesn’t end with what we read and what we write. We tend to go around sniffing out and seeing stories everywhere. Every experience we have, including the bad ones, become something which may appear on the page later.        
Busy places, writers’ minds.            

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