Creative Thinking

I am fascinated by the creative process, particularly when I’m not engaged in it. The more I think about it and try to pin it down the weirder it seems.

Do you picture a scene before you write it and then describe what you see or do you bring the scene into being by the act of writing, the words themselves populating your brain with images? Do you hear the voices and try to cpature them or do characters only speak as the words tumble onto the page?

I think for me the words precede thought, or at least that’s what it feels like. I never know what is going to happen until it emerges somehow or other from my incompetent careless fingers. But words definitely make pictures in my head so that in editing I can take a closer look, re examine a shadowy figure and discover that he has black hair, that his shirt is crimson, that he holds a damascene blade in his left hand and that his nails are painted the colour of ripe plums. I always thought that this process of writing was the same for all writers, but of course it isn’t. I am intrigued to discover that many people know what they are going to write before they start, that some people don’t picture what they write at all and others are haunted by the disemboided voices of characters they have never met, though they may just be the mad ones.

It isn’t much discussed, this actual business of envisaging or creating perhaps because it is so hard to describe; the moments of making things up are fleeting, the ideas, intangible. At times writing comes close to lucid dreaming at others it is more like constructing a flat pack wardrobe from IKEA – one of the ones with the key piece missing – and doing it blindfold.

And another thing… is this imagining universal or is it only writers or painters who work this way? When people ask where we get our ideas from is it because they don’t have any and are baffled by the process? Doesn’t everyone sit and extrude images, places and people, pulling them like rabbits from a hat of our imagining or gathering them like candy floss on a stick. Are we writers particularly strange or is it just that we, spending long hours staring into space, are more inclined to notice? Any ideas?