On Creativity

A week in Bangkok for work, and while I had the intention to think about writing and move ahead, I’m not sure if I expected to come away with so many ideas. Talking with Moises, who is also a writer, helped. We compared notes. He thinks about the big picture, what he wants to say as a writer, what a whole piece of work will mean, and then he will work on that. Meanwhile, I work in pieces, and told him the anecdote of being in art class at age ten: asked to draw a self-portrait, I drew myself in pieces, an eye here, an ear there. The teacher was disturbed I think. My excuse then was that it was easier to draw that way. It hinted at a particular way of seeing the world.

I brought many books to inspire me, a mixed bag. I didn’t manage to read any of the Linda Greig poetry book, but I did get through a lot of Ghostwritten by David Mitchell. Some of the stories I like a lot. I don’t like that he switches into British vernacular for most of this characters, no matter they are from, but I’m getting used to it. It felt like a lack of imagination at first, flattening out the different ways people would think around the world, but now I’m just substituting. The Mongolian old woman makes an insult, I imagine an insult in her words rather than the ones that Mitchell gave her. The book inspired me in two ways though: first of all, it’s in parts, and is considered a novel though has nine interconnected short stories. This gives hope to me, who cannot imagine writing a sustained narrative over the length of a novel, and as I pointed to above, thinks in small pieces. The second thing is that Mitchell went on to be nominated for the Booker Prize, and though the stories are exuberantly imagined, I’m not crazy about some of the writing. Hey, it was his first novel, and he wrote it at a younger age than I am now, but I think it results for me in a good sense of competition, not “why did he get published” but “I can do that.”

In the meantime, I’m trying to get inspired to revise “Bowling Pin Fire”, my poetry manuscript. I have worked on these poems so long, and considered them, I’m having real trouble figuring out where to begin an edit. I think I need to write new poems, so aim to read more poetry to inspire me. My writing doesn’t feel so fluid these days, it’s not flowing out.

The other idea was to comb my journal for ideas and phrases and incidents. And to make a more organised list of my notes from various places, notebooks and computer files. To divide them into “phrases”, “anecdotes” and “stories” and start to develop them, no matter which way they turn out, at least I will be doing some writing.

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