The idea for this post comes from something I wrote yesterday on my other blog, the GreyWorld Project blog.
I quote myself…
I’ve got my story, I’ve got my characters, now it’s just a matter of writing the thing down – mechanics, more than creativity
But then I thought
but it’s not really like that – there is a connection between the mechanical act of writing, the fingers dancing (or plodding) on the keyboard and invention… hmmm, I’ll have to write a post about that
And this post is that post about that.
Let’s state the topic in a less confused way – there is a connection between the mechanical act of writing and the creative act of writing.
Or is there?
Now, a lot’s been made of the fact that we need the right place for writing – some need a darkened room, others prefer to write in a public place.
Currently, there seems to be a revival of the standing writing desk – probably in line with Ernest Hemingway quipping about writing coming from the crotch.
Revival and Hemingway apart, most of us prefer to write sitting.
The environment has to do with our mental state.
We need to be at ease, we should avoid strain and pains (see yesterday’s post).
But going beyond that – is there some kind of feedback between the mechanical act of writing and our creative processes?
Now, the connection between exercise and creativity seems to be pretty well established – moving our body helps our mind focus and manipulate with increased nimbleness our ideas.
But most articles out there will cover the positive effects of a short run or a brisk walk on our creative processes.
But what about the small scale?
Can we really think through the keyboard?
Now I found some references in practical handbooks that state clearly that planning and writing a text are two different phases of the creative process, and that the mechanical act of writing may indeed interfere with the creative process.
But my experience is quite different.
The act of writing, to me, polishes and streamlines the text I have planned and visualized.
Once again, I go back to the first writing book tat really worked for me – Nathalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
Goldberg takes some time discussing the choice of writing instruments – she’s oriented to journaling and hand-writing, so she discusses pens, pencils and copybooks, but there’s also a brief passage about keyboards.
Quoting from memory, the Goldberg wonders what it would be to just sit with a keyboard in our lap, eyes closed, letting the words flow.
I think part of the game is that flow bit.
I think the positive feedback I get from the mechanical act of writing comes from the rhythm that my fingers moving on the keyboard give me. The flow of my phrases is also connected with the flow of my keystrokes – the faster and smoother is my writing, the better are my paragraphs.
It’s a little like there’s a second stage in my writing.
- Stage one – I envision the scene in my mind’s eye, or I hear the dialogue in my inner ear. This is probably what those basic books I mentioned call the planning phase
Stage two – the images or sounds turn into words, into letter-strings, and then in finger movements… and here is where I sort of think again about what I’m about to write, and I actually think in terms of text
Stage three – the words are aligned on the screen, which is where I re-read them, move them around, edit and correct them
It’s the stage two, the one in which, for me, the mechanical act of writing intersects the creative process – and I sometimes wonder if my writing would be different were I to type with ten fingers instead of six and a half.
Words would fall faster on the page, I would have to think faster as I turn images and sounds into words and phrases.
Yes, it would be different.
So all in all, my writing depends on a lot of things, including my keyboard – because I feel more at ease with an old school mechanical IBM keyboard than with one of those more recent membrane-based keyboards.
A hard blow to any illusion about talent, I fear.