To suffer while writing isn’t something new. Lots of artists have related inspiration to stress, and even to agony. It was the case of Mozart, Kafka, or Rilke. Some say that a bit of stress can help you to be creative. But don’t forget: creativity appears when we are having fun, not when we are suffering. During the creative process, it’s necessary that you protect the joy of writing from your inner editor/censor. Relaxing will let you visualise ideas in a better way.
Lots of writers along the centuries have related writing to suffering, and anxiety to the process of generating and developing ideas. But what are the consequences of the creative anguish? It results in the inability to write the words on the page and in a luck of trust in those words once they have been written down. According to my literature classes at university, Kafka was one of the writers who suffered the most. He really suffered while writing, feeling stressed and anguished, but it was even worse for him to re-read what he had written the previous day, thinking that it was totally unacceptable. Then, he realised that he had been suffering for nothing. Such a lot of effort, stress, and anguish for nothing. Does it sound familiar to you? Have you ever wondered the same? We have all thought at some point that we don’t write well enough.
Writer’s block and deferral affect lots of writers to the point that lots of artists consider anguish as an illness that goes with the job of being a writer. Maybe you are feeling relieved to know that even the great Kafka felt like you. Suffering may even seem a romantic concept to you. But we must admit that feeling anxiety while writing isn’t going to help us. Not at all.
It should be good to distinguish between (1) the fact that anguish leads some artists to write and (2) the fact that writing leads some artists to feeling anguished. Now we know that the anguish we may feel while writing is the result of a wrong approach: the tendency to think that writing is an exceptional act when, in fact, it’s a process. We were in the quiet stage of brewing ideas and, since we have failed to identify it as such, we have felt anxious because we weren’t writing a single word. We have called that moment writer’s block when we should have recognised it as that moment when everything can happen. We tend to look for the right answer to soothe our mental anguish, but the creative personality is characterised by a tolerance to doubt and ambiguity.
It’s impossible to write final drafts when it’s the moment of writing down one thousand and one ideas; it’s the moment of opening different paths. Now we know that it’s the tendency to confuse the revision stage with the creative process that makes us suffer.
Stop fooling yourself! Suffering may seem romantic, but it’s not creative. The word anguish, etymologically, means to press, to suffocate, and to drown. How are we going to create anything if we feel like that? How are we going to produce ideas while feeling under pressure? To create it’s necessary to flow, and that flowing state requires peace of mind, discipline, breathing, self-control, and concentration. There are certain attitudes that lead to creative effectiveness: the right disposition and a persevering mood.
So, what’s the creative technique that I am bringing you today? Visualisation.
Do you know this psychological exercise, which consists of creating the mental image of what you want to get before making it real? Distance runners do it all the time, visualising the finish line, and also chess players, visualising the next moves. Writing is the same. To do that, before you start you must relax: sit down comfortably, put your back straight, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Watch out for the pauses between inhalating and exhalating. Let thoughts come and go; don’t try to stop and focus on them. Now visualise a character. Watch your character, free of any criticism, with your mental eyes.
Where do you see your character moving? You see John Doe hidden in an attic; spending a day in the beach with his six brothers; attending a funeral in a tiny village; making snowballs in the city; kissing a classmate in the gym when he was ten; getting married to his girlfriend in a big church; or singing a Taylor Swift song at a karaoke bar.
You can even use a key image: an orange, for example. Imagine its colour, its texture, the smell of the blossoming orange tree, the smell of the fruit, its taste… Feel it inside your mouth: the juice, the acidity, the sweetness, its touch, the rugosity of its skin, the sound of your jaws while eating it, the sound of the knife peeling the orange…
You must perceive with your five senses. When you are ready, open yours eyes,… and write!
Copyright © 2013 Cinta García de la Rosa