Hello and welcome to the 100 Day Writing Challenge Day 15.
What a funny business creative writing is. Making something out of nothing. Well, not nothing, but we take all these words that exist in the public domain and we arrange them in a certain order and, if we’re very lucky, we can make people pay us for the privilege of viewing the order we decided upon. But if it turns out we put them in an order someone already did once before, we could be publicly shamed and forced to pay a fine.
What weird shamanic power we invest in these little clusters of letters. What status we grant to people who we deem particularly talented at putting these words in order. Ooh gosh can I sit in a theatre and listen to you reflect on the process of arranging words we all know and then maybe if I’m very lucky I can pay you to draw your name in pen, very messily, on a physical copy of your latest arrangement.
I mean, it’s cool, of course. I love stories. I love making stuff up. Life is hard and confusing sometimes and it’s good to be able to disappear through these little portals into subrealms of temporary denial. Imagine if things were different! It can be total escapism, just to give your head and your heart a rest. Or it can be a warning – don’t let things end up like this! Or it can be aspirational – look, the way things are isn’t inevitable. Here’s an alternative.
PB Shelley said ‘the great instrument of moral good is the imagination’. Now that doesn’t mean it’s intrinsically or solely good. One might spot a piglet and think ‘hmm, I wonder what would happen if I kicked it off that cliff’, and you might imagine, erroneously, that doing such a ghastly thing would be terribly funny and pleasurable and then act accordingly. Shelley was talking specifically of poetry, and how it makes us better people. I don’t think for a second that’s true. A lot of poets – including ones he knew – were right pricks.
But certainly, fiction has the power – for better or worse – to loosen the inevitability of the now. Asking ‘what if’ can make us miserable, fearful, dissatisfied and distracted, it can stir hatred within us and make us imagine that people we’ve never met are our enemies. It can also spur us on to be kinder, give us hope, or help us avoid mistakes before they’re made. Pre-emptive regret is possible through fiction. We can have emotional reactions to things that never happened and through those reactions undergo genuine growth. That’s cool, right? Is it any wonder that all the world’s religious traditions, all the great figures of spiritual wisdom, used stories and parables to convey their messages?
That’s why I think what you’re engaged in, right now, isn’t some frivolous endeavour. When you take a journey into writing really you’re turning your attention to the process by which you were made, through which you make and remake the world. We can commit some really dreadful errors when we get our stories wrong – you see it all the time in others, right? People who believe terrible things, people who act out of fundamentally incorrect stories.
But this process of returning to the source. Of working with your imagination. I’m not saying it makes you some clearsighted sage who never errs ethically. But it can start, if you pay attention, to show you this process by which we all make meaning, and hopefully, once you see it in action, once you get a proper glimpse of how the sausage is made, that’ll make you just a little more sceptical of the stories you tell yourself, just a little bit slower to judge.
Right, so today I’m going to ask you to jump into the last of our freewriting training sessions. Tomorrow we’re going to be moving this concept a stage further but for now, I’d like you to dive into the crystal blue lake of utter unrestricted creative freedom. Let neither content nor style, coherence nor spelling hold you back. Write write write. Write like the wind. Keep the words coming however good or bad that executive monitoring voice in your brain tells you they are. Keep moving for the full ten minutes and we can work on expanding your capacity for controlled liberation just a bit. Just a touch.
Ok. Are you ready? Your ten minutes starts… now.
And that’s it. You’re done. Congrats. I’m really proud of you. You’ve seen it through and I appreciate your trusting me thus far and taking the time to try this out. Tomorrow we’re going to switch it up a bit and look at some ways you can expand this concept out, channelling the great firehose of words down some specific tributaries for fun and or profit.
Right. Take care, and I’ll catch you tomorrow.