I was recently invited by the Society of Authors to write a diary for a week, from a writer's perspective. Here is the result.
I decided the most creative writing-inducing activity would be to do no writing at all. Well, not physically anyway. I do a lot of writing in my head, and then have to go through the laborious process of making notes before I forget, and then actually typing it up. If scientists could find a way of plugging my head straight into the printer, I’d have a lot more time on my hands.
A great stimulus, I find, is photography. I always try and take a digital camera with me wherever I go. It fits into a pocket, and now and then there’s a great shot just waiting to be taken.
Other times, I like to take photos of ordinary everyday objects just to be able to illustrate articles on my website (http://www.ictineducation.org) without having to concern myself with copyright issues.
And occasionally I like to take pictures of strange or beautiful patterns, such as formed by sunlight through trees or the shadow of a wrought iron gate on the ground, to serve as a stimulus for a bit of creative writing in the future.
I store a lot of my pictures on Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/terryfreedman), where they languish mostly unseen and therefore mostly unloved – but at least they are there should I need something with which to illustrate an article.
So, off to the park, enjoying the summer weather and just relaxing, and not really thinking about writing at all. I managed to obtain some nice photos though, which I hope will come in handy one of these days.
Then home, to do some reading. I have mixed feelings about the value of reading for a writer. The conventional wisdom is that the more well-read you are, the better a writer you will be. I’m not so sure. Part of me thinks that the less cluttered your mind is with other people’s thoughts, the less derivative a writer you are likely to be.
I first started to doubt the value of reading, specifically literary criticism, when doing my English ‘A’ Level. After a week spent reading and making copious notes on the views of the Great and the Good about Hamlet, I came to the following conclusions:
1. All these experts completely disagree with each other, and presumably they can’t all be right?
2. They all back up their arguments or draw their conclusions by extensive references to the text of the play itself.
3. Taking points 1 and 2 together, I had just as much right to form my own opinions which, as long as they were grounded in the text of the play, were just as valid as anyone else’s.
4. Following on from point 3, why would I want to waste my time trying to glean insights from all those other people?
Bear in mind that that was my 18 year-old self speaking, and I no longer hold such self-assured, bordering on arrogant, views. Nevertheless, when it came to my thinking about writing a review of the Waiting For Godot production at Her Majesty’s, it occurred to me that rather than do a load of research into the play in order to check if my views were ‘correct’, I’d be better off just ploughing ahead with it.
Incidentally, that’s another work that is currently residing in my head; otherwise I’d have given a reference for it here.