I have just arrived on the Emerald Isle, not to walk the hallowed halls of Trinity College to view the Book of Kells or to immerse myself in barrels of Guiness – although after last night I think I may have done just that at The Ferryman on the banks of the Liffey. Nor did I come to breathe the air of Dublin’s James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, or Oscar Wilde, although every writer could certainly benefit from an infusion of their talent. No! I am here to play golf.
A friend of mine, who lives near Oxford, invited me to be a guest of a group of golfers to which he belongs, called the Sun Followers. I didn’t ask the obvious question as to why they had chosen Ireland for their spring excursion. I had expected Portugal or Spain.
Yesterday, as I was watching the rain as I crossed the Irish Sea on a very comfortable ferry, I lapsed into a reflection of my writing process.
Most of the time, I sit down knowing where I want the piece to go. Michael and I have talked about it and have agreed, more or less, as to what should happen. Most of the time, the process is very conscious – I am aware of what I am writing and can mentally step back and evaluate what I have done.
As with many other writers, the plan for a piece doesn’t always get executed as expected. Sometimes the characters don’t let you go where you want them to go – a good sign that you’ve crept into their heads. Other times, the act of writing shakes loose ideas that hadn’t occurred to you before. Also good.
So you have to be on your toes, so to speak, because the story doesn’t always progress as expected.
But this conscious, reflective, approach to writing is not what intrigues me the most. Sometimes, as I start hitting the keys, I lose myself – similar to what athletes call being in the zone. When in this state, I can write without being aware of what is happening. The words just flow, unprocessed and unfiltered. The path is often uncharted and unplanned, and the result is frequently the best writing I produce.
What is more puzzling is that when I return to consciousness and read what I have just written, I often have no real recollection of writing it. It reads as though someone else had written it. Furthermore, I find myself wondering where the ideas, words, and sentences had come from. It seems so unlikely that they emanated from me, that I could have been the source, because everything feels so foreign or unlikely.
So where does this state come from?
I have no idea.
But I certainly wish I knew and could package it. And share it with my friends.
Or at least I wish I could summon it at will for myself.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Stan – Thursday, raining