Whatever kind of writing we do – fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, poems – it all comes from somewhere inside the self, and bears the hallmarks of our individuality.
The writing process is one of the ways we can open up to the themes and dreams of our inner worlds which, if we can’t find a way of opening to them, to use Ted Hughes’ analogy, lie dormant and inaccessible to us, ‘like the fish in the pond of a man who cannot fish.’
In the first instance, what creativity requires is surrender – the willingness to explore inside your mind and allow whatever is there to emerge. But to shape our stories and poems into something other people will enjoy reading requires a different skill – direction and focus. Two parts then, both needing to be well developed: surrender and control.
Last year, one of my work resolutions was to let go of the desire to be helpful in my writing, which has been a main driver in all my work, both fiction and non-fiction. I’m not sure why it suddenly felt like a good idea to try and distance myself from it, but the upshot was that I barely wrote anything at all.
I was talking to a friend about this, and she remarked that maybe we didn’t really have a choice about what kind of writer we can be; the writer we are is the person we are. When she said that, it was obvious.
It made me think of the early years of mothering, when I gave myself a hard time because I couldn’t be the kind of mother I wanted to be. It took a long time for me to understand that to be a different kind of mother I would have to be a different kind of person, and that wasn’t something I could achieve, however hard I might try.
When I stopped trying to be a different kind of writer and thought about this year’s goals, I straight away found four exciting book ideas. Well, exciting to me. And each one is strongly driven by that old desire, to share ideas that can make life better.
Evidently the process of becoming a writer is like the process of writing itself, a combination of surrender and control. First, be open to finding out the kind of writer you are, and then develop the skills to make the best of your raw material.
Has writing given you insights into the kind of person you are?