My brother and I had a good talk late one recent evening about the value of writing. Not creative writing necessarily, but journaling, writing for discovery. We discussed how many of the thoughts we have are of no value. They are truly unknowable because they never make it into language. We cannot really understand our thoughts without writing them, or at least, writing them is the best way to crack the code of our thoughts. When we write about anything – a problem, a feeling, a story idea – we find certainty. We find out what we know and we are able to poke at it, test it, outside our minds where there is objectivity. Language forces a structure, requires logic, drives conclusion and understanding. I don’t know of a better, so easily accessible tool for developing oneself.
But how does this relate to creative writing? The ideas you have for a story, until they are on paper, cannot be trusted. Many, many times I have had ideas that I thought were great, really going to make a difference in my story. I sat down to write them and there was nothing, there was only an imagination. Just as many times I have had only a phrase or a simple image come to mind which I nearly dismissed as a cobweb. But when I picked up a napkin to jot it down it opened up to all kinds of possibilities – sometimes forming cornerstones and critical turning points I had not seen coming.
You cannot trust what is in your mind. That space in there is too complex, too secluded to be a place where things come to be. Learn to pay attention to the scraps that the machine discards and don’t let it fool you into believing that it is the source of understanding.