The word “process” implies some sort of replicable ritual, something which can be followed to the end to get results. The sad truth, alas, is that usually it doesn’t all go down in the right order, it’s usually heavily punctuated with coffee, washing, or walks to the library, and it often lacks really satisfying results. Creating a ritual around my writing is important, but perhaps the most helpful part of that ritual is when it doesn’t go to plan.
While walking through the cemetery early this week, I discovered the Springthorpe Memorial. It really moved me, but I had no idea how I could use that. I came home and executed some boring pages about nothing much.
Next evening, I was playing with the magnetic poetry-makers on my fridge and came up with the following, which I somehow feel was inspired by the character of Sonmi-451 in David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The poem read:
“How the monkey did wander
I wrote that down, because it made me sad.
The next morning I started working on a poem about the Springthorpe Memorial, using the idea of sad wandering, and talking about the fierce angels which guard the doctor’s “O Sweetheart Mine”. I’ve been researching all the sculptors who created the many statues around Melbourne, and I have no idea where that’s going to go but it seems useful.
And that’s the trajectory of just one piece. Just one piece which is still unfinished, so the “process” which guides me to the end of it may take a bunch of twists and turns along the way. The point is that I planned time to write about the Springthorpe Memorial, and it was balls. This doesn’t mean that I think getting up and making myself write is balls – far from, I find it very important. But in this case, the unplanned stuff was my way in – it was helpful.
17/06/2011 at 5:48 am
I love your little monkey poem. It’s simple, stunning, and as you rightly point out, sad.
As for the memorial, wow. He really loved his wife. It’s beautiful, and also, sad.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on “the process”. It sure is a mystery to me too. I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like recently. But I think creativity comes in waves and it’s all part of “the process” 😉
Looking forward to seeing you tonight at the GDS launch! Have a great day 🙂
17/06/2011 at 5:56 am
Thanks, Bronwyn! It’s funny, isn’t it, how much uninspired crap we need to produce to come up with anything worth keeping?
17/06/2011 at 6:16 am
There’s a lot that goes in writing and how much we have to edit out along the way. As long as its an enjoyable journey I reckon is the main thing 🙂
17/06/2011 at 6:26 am
I actually find a lot of it pretty painful… It’s the destination that I’m all about! How’s your writing going, Shan?
17/06/2011 at 6:28 am
With further consideration I’ll just note that that’s a flippant comment. I’m not all about the destination, the act of writing is ace. But not always enjoyable.
17/06/2011 at 6:40 am
Haha I just realised after posting that comment that I don’t even agree with what I wrote. Sometimes writing is enjoyable but most of the time its really painful, the enjoyable part is when you’re lost in words. The painful part is the editing and squeezing out words. But the enjoyment is not when it’s done and polished because it never is finished really, the enjoyment is “the journey.” If that makes sense? My writing is going alright, I have found this week difficult as I have been working a lot and the time is just not there. Plus, I have a philosophy exam next and I should start studying for that! And then I’m moving back to Melbourne- hurrah! I just have smaller goals at the moment, nothing too intense. 🙂
17/06/2011 at 8:05 am
I had a weird process too, and am often fascinated by people who have a kind of blueprint for their process. Glad to know I’m not the only imperfect writer.
I’m a fan of a process by obsession, like bombarding me with lots of media in different forms so some of it sticks and inspires me. Whether it be metal on all the time, movies, books, blogs, debates and conversations – I can become obsessed with something so that I can’t not write about it.
17/06/2011 at 8:19 am
I’ve had this before too; I often need to approach non-fictional stuff this way so that I don’t end up with dry lists of facts. If you absolutely immerse yourself in something, it’s inescapable and the important stuff just makes its way in.
17/06/2011 at 8:24 am
I’m intimidated by proper non-fiction, that isn’t like a blog post or something flippant. I feel like I need to flesh what I think out with examples and such. I started explaining what I mean just then but might take it to the sub-date group because it references a specific piece
17/06/2011 at 8:06 am
I guess the process, if such a thing exists, is just to be open to not having a process to rely upon. I know I tend to get frustrated when stories that I’ve intensely thought out, just don’t happen when I get to the page. I guess you just have to run with it, live in the moment.
17/06/2011 at 8:11 am
I agree. It’s strange how some of our best pieces are the ones we quite quickly, without much thought, or you just consider it something fleeting and unimportant. I find this with poetry especially.
17/06/2011 at 8:23 am
That’s the thing, isn’t it – “if such a thing exists”. Should it? Should creativity be more organic than schedules and exercises? And if it should be more organic, then how the hell do we make that fit with deadlines and such – just sheer luck?
I think I need the office-hours type of setup to my day, but the moments of inspiration certainly don’t often happen then, they’re utterly unplanned – I agree Mark, living in the moment is the key.
17/06/2011 at 10:52 am
I think the problem, which actually might not be a problem, is that most external aspects of our daily lives can be easily conformed to some sort of forced structure – on relationships, on work, on play etc. Because of this, as productive humans we tend to try to boil all things down to a process which can be understood, spoken about and boxed up. We like to draw circles around things, to know where they begin and end.
But creativity is the random outcome that sits outside of that structure. It’s not meant to fit into a timebox, and that’s a pretty hard (and sometimes frustrating) truth to face. We’re not meant to get it, as there’s nothing solid enough, or constant enough, to get.
17/06/2011 at 9:03 pm
For me, a process wouldn’t work at all. I tried it once and ended up wasting time as nothing comes up in my mind to pen. So i chose to take the things as they come. A good idea though.