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Schreibtischtäter > Literary writing > Creative sources

Some of our best ideas come when we are otherwise distracted, as when we are going to sleep or driving. Audio-record you thoughts on these occasions, but recognize that there is a good reason why good ideas com at such inconvenient moments: your unconscious and dreaming mind is communicating open-mindedness into play. The classic pose of a writer at work is a person sitting still at their desk in silence. There are obviously times when this is thinking, by blocking conscious thought and inviting contributions from the unconscious: `flashes of insight` we call them, or `inspiration`, or `the given`, when they are no more than the synaptic impulses of dreamers. You need to some writers as the place or pen. William Wordsworth composed poems while pacing the metres of his garden`s gravel path. Ted Hughes used the concentrations of fishing. Try different forms of exercise before writing. If you begin to dry up while writing, then take a walk. Salvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking. Try playing different sorts of music until something begins to answer and propel the rhythm of your work.

Props and prompts for action

Aside from notebooks, pens and computers, a new creative writer needs the support of a Word Hoard, such as the Oxford English or Chambers Dictionary, to locate words and to use them precisely. Dictionaries are richly seamend places to spend time looking for prompts to making creative language. The etymologies of words are anecdotes told by language across time. Words bristle with meanings: they are prickly with their histories and usages. Precision of language is important in developing good personal style. Your style will be judged not only by the way you order and play with words, but by your choice of words. Therefore, you also need and excellent thesaurus, such as Roget`s Thesaurus, in order to find alternative words to keep you lively, surprising and varied.


Try to focus on your writing as often as possible. The quickest and least frictional method for beginning to know the zone of writing is to practice freewriting every day. It is less useful for full-time writers for whom a deadline is incentive enough. Freewriting requires that your write fast; you do not even stop to think. We shall try a version of this now.
Do you recall when you were a child and you first realized that you could think? Often this moment occurs when you were having difficulty going to sleep. You comprehended that you were thinking, and this kept you awake. So, you tried to cheat your thought by not thinking. `I shall think white`, you thought, or `I shall think “grey”`. And you thought `white` and you thought `grey`, but then you realized that both `white` and `grey` were still types of thinking. You can never stop thinking, but you can stop thinking you are thinking, and freewriting helps you do this.

Inspiration and duende

New writers mistake the state of trance with inspiration. When a write or writing student say that they have missed a deadline because the were not feeling inspiration is the act of drawing up a chair to the writing desk` - Anon. The angel of inspiration tends to sail on the slow and steady tortoise, obeying the cherished Renaissance maxim to make haste slowly. Write something now and, having written, ask yourself what lies beneath what you have written. What is the nature of your iceberg beneath the visible tip? Finding what lies below your words is a way finds the physical and psychological drives of what we used to call inspiration.

Writing proceeds forwards slowly, like a sand dune moving through night and day, simultaneously accreting and eroding. Much is lost or invisible, millions of grains of sand, millions of grains of language. Workshops formalize this natural process, this need to move against something solid, against and with somebody. Our writing requires not only analysis, intelligence as well as intuition – it requires discussion; evaluations and feedback from our peers and mentors. All these acts are parallels of inspiration. Keats looks to Shakespeare as a father figure, a mentor. Shakespeare sometimes collaborated too, and consulted his peers, and actors, as he drafted and wrought. Writing plays is after all, one of the most collaborative of the written art forms.

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