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The creative process is an individual journey but I enjoy hearing how other people do it and I like to have the more contemplative articles to balance out the practical, how-to stuff that I usually feature! This is a guest post from Isabel Anders.
“The easiest thing on earth is to come up with an idea. The hardest thing on earth is to put it down [write it]. … Ideas are probably … in the air” —Rod Serling of TheTwilight Zone, on the writing process.
“Writing doesn't mean necessarily putting words on a sheet of paper. You can write a chapter while walking or eating.”
How about composing your book while trying to fall asleep?
Recently when I was being interviewed about one of my books, the interviewer asked me where I got my ideas. The first thought I had was how often, when I’m experiencing insomnia, I ask myself, “What should I be thinking about and working on next?” And I told her that, adding that some of my best book ideas have germinated in that way.
Often I work with potential titles in my mind, juggling the words around until one combination sounds right. Sometimes I even begin to develop an outline with chapter titles, reciting them over to myself in logical order, so that I’ll remember them on waking the next morning.
At other times I have been “given” an actual opening sentence, and I get out of bed to go start an electronic file and record it so I won’t forget. Often these ideas are right on target, and spark the beginning of a successful book project. At other times I find that applying the cool daylight component of morning editorial judgment causes them to fade like wisps of dreams that really can’t be implemented.
But still, I highly recommend the process, and was interested to read (after I had actually begun writing this post in a similar vein) Julia McCutchen’s comments on “How Intuition Can Enhance Your Writing.”
“Ask your intuition for answers to questions and guidance on important decisions relating to any aspect of your authorship. Spend some time just before you go to bed settling your body and your mind. Then ask your question clearly and write it down. Set the intention to receive the answer, and then let it go.”
Yes! While I hadn’t thought of it as asking my “intuition,” that well describes the trust that occurs when you open your relaxed and honest mind, sincerely seeking focus and allowing the best of your ideas to rise from the jumbled tangle of what you are thinking about consciously during your work day.
I am fascinated with some classic descriptions of this process. And I see also how what we are reading ourselves feeds into what rises to the surface, leading to the angle we can take with our own writing—as Pablo Neruda described in his Memoirs, “moving in the world of knowing, on the turbulent river of books, like a solitary navigator.”
Here is some more sage advice on the subject:
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
“The universe is full of radiant suggestion.”
—Poet Mary Oliver.
As Lyall Watson wrote in Beyond Supernature: “There seems to be a direct link between truly creative intelligence and the ability to dilute consciousness, to cut mental corners and practice unusual, lateral thinking in what amounts almost to a state of trance. All the most profound insights seem to flow from breaches in the barrier between waking thought, which tends to be conservative, and dream logic, which is essentially liberal. It cannot be purely accidental that Coleridge composed ‘Kubla Khan’ in his sleep or that Mozart found his best musical inspiration rising like dreams, quite independent of his will. It seems that, under conditions of dissociation, we have the chance to tune in directly to some of the world's basic rhythms, to become aware of the pattern behind the process.”
Do we have to understand how this works? Definitely not—just to practice it.
Let the experience and insights of some of these “greats” inspire you to allow the best ideas in you to rise to the surface of your conscious life, and then to be worked with like clay.
And remember, for any writer, the idea is only the beginning.
How do you balance your creative and ideas self with the more practical, disciplined side of just getting the words on the page?
Isabel Anders is the author of more than 20 books including Becoming Flame: Uncommon Mother-Daughter Wisdom and Twelfth Day. She is co-author with Diane Marquart Moore of the Father Malachi mystery Chant of Death.
Top image: Flickr CC Ecstacist