Tuesday 19 June 2018

Writing about a Material World

 Globe, Sculpture, Park, Metal, Earth

This is an interesting debate. Is the world material? Is it just energy? Is it just a construct of our thoughts and imagination? How do things like The Secret work in a totally material world?  
The video It's an Immaterial World discusses these ideas. 

But what about the writer? Do we live in our heads or are we engaged with the physical world? 

"Write what you know," the gurus tell us.  But if we wrote only what we knew, surely there would be no Star Wars, no Harry Potter, no Lord of the Rings. Neither probably would there be any historical fiction. However, we do write what we know in answering the question "What if?" What if there were a universe full of inhabited planets, at war with each other? What if there were a school for witches and wizards? What if there were some rings that had supernatural  powers? What if the only place for the poor were the workhouse? We work out how all of that would feel like from our experience of our physical world with a little emotion thrown in to salt it.  

"Write with your senses," I tell my students. This means being precise about what they see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Feel can be used in both senses. It always produces effective writing and helps them to "show not tell". This is so very much about the physical world. 

A writer may seem locked up in her head. But all of those ideas that buzz around in there relate to the physical world. We write about scenery, human beings, sounds, what people say and do. This is all physical. A film plays itself out in our heads and we write in order to create the same film in our readers' minds. 

Go to any beach or airport, and you will see many people sitting close to each other, all immersed in other worlds. What is going on in their heads? Ask them to define it and they come out with words which are physical entities: sounds in the head or little marks that mean something on a page.

Many texts, of course deal with the inner monologue of its characters. Even these characters always think in words and words have that physical presence described above. 

Many writers like to experience the physical world they write about. They notice more when they are in the park, the prison cell or the sailing boat than when they just rely on their memory or imagination.     

So how do affirmations and dream-confirming work? In a material world? Well, when we write we isolate certain details we deem important. We focus on them. When we make affirmations or reiterate our dreams we also bring a focus. The former is our creative act. The latter reminds us of what is important to us and is also a creative act.      

The beautiful irony is that matter is mainly empty space. What looks like real matter is actually energy.               

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