Sunday, March 29, 2009

The ultimate trick to writing

I had found this worked before and may have mentioned the first part of this in an earlier post. Testing it again, it still works and I have a greater understanding of why it works.

Go away. To a country where you don't speak the language.

This works in two distinct phases. Phase 1 is the journey. There are very few things more dull on this planet than long trips on airplanes, waiting at airports, checking in, going throuh security and so on. With check-in times getting longer and longer, this experience gets more dull all the time. There is damn-all to do in an airport. Or on an airplane.

At a certain point, your brain gets so utterly bored, it starts making up interesting stuff simply to keep itself from shutting down completely. These are the beginnings of stories. Just embrace the boredom and let them come.

What I don't think I had fully realised before was the importance of Phase 2 - simply being in a country where you have no idea what people are saying. This works on many levels. Firstly, it helps you actually see things. As humans, our process for recognising things is about what is different, not what is the same. A smell, after a while, we'll cease to notice. The ticking of a clock will vanish sooner or later. Our brain takes familiar things and puts them in the 'not important' category. We know an apple from an orange not from what is similar, but from what is different.

Going about our daily grind, we encounter the same things over and over. And, after a while, we don't see them any more. It's hard to be observant. Hard to actually take things in. Everything is just normal and so goes unrecognised.

In an unfamiliar country, and unfamiliar culture, there are differences everywhere. And that wakes up our brain. It forces us to observe. We see buildings, people, objects, signs that we just pass by at home and never take in. But, somewhere different, we take it all in.

And what's even more important is that our brain is given its own space to work these images in, to interpret them and to let things form and flow. Walking down a street at home, we are bombarded with pieces of conversation, radio, television, whatever. There is constant language stimulation. Our inner brain conversations have a hard time being heard. When forming stories and working on writing, language clarity is all important. But that's really tough when words are being thrown at you from all over.

Not so in a country where you don't speak the language. Your brain is alone. Finally. It can work away by itself while actually being observant for once.

And then you just go to wherever you're staying and write. When you get tired, blocked or just fancy something else to do, go for a walk and 40 minutes later, without really doing anything, you'll have more material. Write again. And repeat.

It's my ultimate writing tip. And it's not failing me.


Andy Latham said...

Ooooo an excuse to go on holiday!!

Red Pill Junkie said...

So THAT's why they say traveling is so enlightening! :)

Makes perfect sense.