My blog. What is it? What do I intend it to be? A collection of random thoughts, quotations, comments and reviews that reflect my interests and opinions. Please feel free to add your comments. As I said in the Welcome section, ‘let’s communicate.’
People often ask me how I get my ideas. Like most writers, I find inspiration from a variety of sources: from people and places, from books, poems, plays or films, from the media. For me, the most important source of inspiration is from the emotional baggage of life itself. I am not an overtly biographical writer but my own experiences do inform my fiction.
Much writing is done in the head before sitting at the computer or putting pen to paper. When it looks as if I’m sitting dreaming in my garden in Gran Canaria, sunbathing or in the shade, I’m actually working. ‘Yeah, yeah,’ I hear you say. ‘Tell me another.’ But any writer will tell you it’s true. While we’re sitting or lying with eyes closed or going for a walk the unconscious part of our mind comes into play. I call it the Gestation period. When these seemingly random thoughts and dreams break through to the conscious mind, it’s useful to have a notebook close by to jot down ideas before my fickle mind forgets them, just in case they prove useful later.
Sometimes I like to start with a blank page without a thought in my head. I find that stimulating. Exciting but frightening too. I write freely to generate ideas. It is similar to Freud’s therapeutic technique that he called ‘free association.’ He encouraged his patients to tell him their thoughts without reservation in any order spontaneously as they occurred. In his analysis of dreams, he identified the mental structure of the mind as the unconscious, the pre-conscious and the conscious. My free writing is not a story but an outpouring of thoughts from all sections of the mind. Looked at afterwards, sometimes the germ of a story will emerge, sometimes not.
In both these methods I’ve described, the passive dreaming in the garden and the active pouring out of ideas on a blank page – I am digging deep into my psyche.
Seamus Heaney expresses this idea succinctly in his poem, “Digging,” using the metaphor of digging to describe a similar writing process. The poem begins:
‘Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.’
It’s as if he’s waiting for the gun to go off and create an explosion – inspiration for the next poem perhaps, but the stimulus comes from outside. The persona of the poem, surely Heaney himself, looks out of the window and sees his father digging ‘for good turf’ and remembers how his father before him ‘could handle a spade too.’
Heaney admits he hasn’t the ability to dig with a spade but
‘The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head,
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.’
‘Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.’
As a writer, I have to dig deep to find the things I want to write about. I do this both though my unconscious, pre-conscious and my conscious mind. I am continually surprised and sometimes disconcerted by the power of the unconscious. Who knows what repressed memories will rise to the surface?
What a dangerous, exciting thing it is to be a writer.