Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Paralysis and flow 

Interesting. For weeks, months maybe, I’ve been stuck with nothing to say – not only unable to write, but unable to think also. To be honest, I’ve actually been getting a little worried by it; no original thought, either at home or at work, no ability to do anything other than provide a basic response to external stimuli; an incoherence that makes me cringe every time I open my mouth in the simplest of conversations.

I sat down the other day to write something completely different. Forget the introspection, forget any commentary on the world at large; try instead the world of imagination (fuelled, perhaps, by recently having serially read the entire Harry Potter saga).

On our holiday in Scotland, we visited a reconstruction of a crannog – an iron-age dwelling built on timber piles off the shore of a loch, housing an extended family of up to 30 people (pics here for the time being, until I’m not tucked behind a firewall that doesn’t allow FTP). I was quite taken with the whole thing – the simplicity of the life there, yet coupled with a surprising degree of civilisation and cooperative activity required to build such a structure . I got to thinking about what daily life must have been like there two and a half thousand years ago, and came up with the idea of trying to describe it through the eyes of a teenage boy involved in building a new crannog, perhaps because a family group grew too big and needed to split in two.

Ten handwritten pages later, I looked in amazement at what I’d got. An entire narrative had unfolded from nowhere, and I'd only begun to set the scene; I nearly posted it there and then.

I’m glad I didn’t. The euphoria didn’t last; the following day I realised the quality of the story might have got me a pass at GCSE English Language, but I wasn’t going to be the next J K Rowling.

All the same, there’s no denying that creative juices were flowing; crystal clear images had formed in my mind, of which I’d only sketchily transferred the outline to paper. That was one of the snags though – the images were clear, which led to straightforward descriptive writing, but the plot, such as it was, was decidedly linear, with no deviations from an entirely predictable path - you could summarise it in a single sentence. Okay perhaps as means of illustrating Perthshire life 500 years BC, but hardly enthralling reading.

Plus I’d made some erroneous simplifying assumptions which would need to be corrected, making the plot much more complex (requiring a group of fifteen people rather then five). In the light of the previously mentioned defect though, that’s probably not a bad thing- but it would mean doing a lot more work before having a viable basis for a story.

I know, I know, I’m being hyper-critical. I still maintain that the criticisms are valid; nevertheless, I take heart at the ease with which the first draft fell out.

Was that a Freudian slip? Did I say first draft? Will there be a second?

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