Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Creative process thoughts

I’ve been trying to frame my ideas for this and it has simply been like trying to herd cats!

First I must say that this is purely personal and I can only really speak about what I do most and that is to write. I suspect something similar may go on with art and music and other modalities but since these are not my areas of expertise( if that sounds pompous, sorry!) I can’t comment there.

When I write I often get a feeling that I am not creating anything but that I am re-creating something or discovering something that already exists, rather like an archaeologist happening upon a lost temple that has been forgotten about for centuries. The temple has always been there but people have forgotten it and the lianas have grown up and the jungle has expanded and covered it, and eventually even legends concerning it become vague.

Now I know this sounds rather strange and in some ways completely at odds with the idea of the writer as storysmith and creator of the tales they tell. But I feel I am retelling tales that have been lost. Terry Pratchett wrote quite extensively in Witches Abroad about the concept of Story as a symbiotic or even parasitic life form and while I wouldn’t go so far, it often feels very much as though the stories that I find in my head are alive and evolving.

Quite where the stories actually exist I do not know. I’ve been desperately trying to get my head round ideas to do with Space/time and so on but it simply won’t come right at the moment. But maybe since as Eliot said, in The Four Quartets, all time is eternally present, the stories I write exist in my head because they already exist in the future and the past simultaneously. I might not be making sense here but the echoes of what I hear are not very clear yet and I am trying to translate them into concepts I really do not have the vocabulary for.

I spoke before of David existing inside the block of stone and Michaelangelo chiselling away all that wasn’t David; it’s a similar process of identifying which scene is from what story and which lines belong where. Like a combination of excavation and reconstruction, I sift through the images and storylines and characters and try and use my rather inadequate brain to decide what goes where and I am often left with numerous bits and pieces that fit nowhere that I file away for future use, much like the way comedians collect humour and jokes for the right set.

I’d very much welcome discussion and comment on this issue as it perplexes and baffles me. I’d like to take credit for creation but in some ways I never can; only for allowing the book or poem to “come through” the layers of sand and the detritus of maybe centuries or millenia and cleaning it up.

When Iguanodon was first reassmbled by early paleontologists, they made a right dog’s dinner of him and put his thumb claws on the end of his nose and had his whole structure wrong. Maybe sometimes I do the same with stories and poems but only experience and intuition can tell this, and I suspect that much of what I uncover and reassemble is as accurate as can be hoped for. 


by Viv


January 11, 2009 - Posted by | books, Cafe Literati, literature, love, personal, poetry, psychology, Viv's Novels, writing | , , , , , , , ,


  1. Viv, this post is GIGANTIC! I am deeply touched by it, by the theme you chose, and by the humble way and so honest way to write and ask ask about it. I will come back later today to enter the discussion. You know, I think it is such an important them, I wished many people could find it and discuss with us… we will see which shores this stone reaches…

    Comment by Miki | January 11, 2009

  2. I can only echo Miki in this Viv – fabulous post, and you raise so many eternally unanswered questions. When I am in “full flow” be it songwriting or storytelling, I often feel that sensation that its already done, and I’m just getting it down as fast as I can! Taking the broader view, perhaps we are just tapping into a vast store of timeless knowledge and reassembling it as best we can, thumbs and all!

    Comment by kevmoore | January 11, 2009

  3. I resisted the impulse to muddy the waters with the whole collective unconscious issue but I do believe it is there, beyond time and space.

    Comment by viv66 | January 11, 2009

  4. As you say, Viv

    “… I’ve been desperately trying to get my head round ideas to do with Space/time and so on…”

    You remember me telling you about Momo, the little girl fighting against the Time Thefts? Well, this is why I was called Momo in Germany, because I was spending much time and above all energy {and wasting good mood…) trying to understand all these things, especially the phenomena “time”… it nearly killed me, and I mean it literally…

    I won’t go this path of thoughts again, too dangerous for my “delicate” soul… and above all, I guess our brain is not done to find the right answers, the main reason being that it sems that the processes of the brain can only happen on a platform ruled by linear time, along the straight line
    yesterday, today, tomorrow.
    Of course we are able to imagine a non linear time, where past, present and future interact somehow, but it can only remain a feeling. Physics might have some fitting theories describing it, but even they need linear time, as their theories are based on dual logic. Which is, at least for me, THE formalisation of linear time, using the “cause to effect chain”.

    Anyway this is why I don’t believe that we can find this kind of answers… sorry if I explain it badly, but it is difficult enough as such, and then with the English language…

    I also often often had the feeling that my stories and my paintings are just coming out through my hands, that I am only “the messenger”… but being myself not all into esoteric, religion, mysticism, etc. it is very difficult for me to follow this thread of feelings.

    The most probable explanation for me is the following:
    we have an initial idea, an initial spark. And then, supported by all the stuff we have in our brain, the story (paintings) develop,exactly like outside, in the nature, micro or even bigger cosmos develop. Life develop VERY fast in nature, and often needs only an initial spark. I believe that EVERYTHING which rules our lives follows the same rules as nature, are built on the same patterns, so in particular the brain processes.

    It is partly an exciting belief, as LIFE has infinite possibilities and is always good for surprises, but on the other side it is much less “romantic” and satisfying than theories like
    “… allowing the book or poem to “come through” the layers of sand and the detritus of maybe centuries or millenia and cleaning it up…”

    unfortunately I have to live within my brain, and I can’t force him to leave the awfully naked and logical structures it was born within. But at least it is able to imagine and even accept the credibility of the most incredible theories about Time and Space…

    Comment by Miki | January 12, 2009

  5. I think that you are right that our brains cannot cope with this sort of thing and it can drive you mad. But it may be that it is essential to consider them at least once in your life, and maybe at intervals as we mature and our experience shapes our thoughts. I come back to it agai and again and try and get a handle on it, fail and go away again. What other things I discover on that journey may well be more the actual point of the exercise, because as you know the point of a journey is not the destination.
    I also believe that we are all at some level connected, both past present and future, and that echoes and voices come through from both directions and we can sometimes hear them.
    I am a bit of a mystic and in certain ways the mystic seeker is the counterpart of the seeker in science, often using different language to explain the same thing.
    Energy never truly disappears, just changes form.
    I’m thinking about writing a post on dreaming, too, and one about waiting.

    Comment by viv66 | January 12, 2009

  6. I wonder where, in this all, talent lies. Is it a man-made concept? Is it a name we have given in order to describe an ability (such as that of which you speak, Viv) in a nutshell? Or is it “natural”? Do some of us have “talent” for one thing or another and others do not? Maybe the others who do not share our “talent” are talented in other areas?

    What came first, “talent” or “the idea of talent”? Oh, and where does it fit in with the re-discovery of a tale long forgotten?

    ~scratches head~ Right, I’ll just be going away to think about that, then. *chuckle*

    Comment by jennypaws | January 12, 2009

  7. Talent is another concept really. I believe that you need to have some talent for something to perform really well, but even without talent, hard work and a strong will can go a long way.
    I also think that like muscles, our minds learn as they do things.
    The writer of one sci fi saga, The Shannara series, started out with the first book with really rather poor quality writing, that somehow got success, and enabled him to continue writing. The writing improved with practise! So the most recent books are far better in all ways than the first ones.
    Some talents I think are minutely suited to certain people due to coincidences of physique or mental development and genetics. And some are just plain bizarre in where they appear. I’ve often wondered about people born in other centuries who were born before certain career options were open. The amount of raw talent that was never used or aired is staggering. Imagine being a man born to be a racing driver when the fastest vehicle was an oxcart, or a woman born before emancipation who had talent for any number of things.

    Comment by viv66 | January 12, 2009

  8. Jenny,

    One could say perhaps that talent is a man-made concept, but then: what is not a man-made concept?
    We have no idea what exists or would exist without the names we give to the things, have we? I for example have no idea what really exists for dogs… perhaps only that part of the world which they need to perceive and put in some kind of sounds (barks = words) to survive? I simply don’t know, and I guess we will never know.
    But even as a man-made concept talent is something great.
    I tend to have the same opinion above talent as Viv
    “coincidences of physique or mental development and genetics”
    In my {humble} opinion every ability or non ability is a matter of neurons connections (quantity and quality). And why some people have more than other, or developed in another part of the brain, I don’t know. Even if one answers this question with “genetics’ at some point, the very beginning, the question raises again… one of these questions like
    “What came first, “talent” or “the idea of talent””
    for me impossible to think or even feel an answer.

    As for the question
    “where does it fit in with the re-discovery of a tale long forgotten?”
    this is why I personally don’t believe in this theory of the rediscovery… logicically, it does not fit in. But Logic cannot be everything…

    Comment by Miki | January 12, 2009

  9. Have you ever read the book Women who run with the wolves, by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes?
    It’s an amazing book, but what I am thinking of in particualr is one of the first parts, where she describes the folk tale figure of la Que Saba, the woman who collects bones until she has enough to make a creature and then she sings it to life. Now translated into modern language, this is closer to what I am trying to get to, that we collect the bones and sing them to life when we let our minds run free or in neutral and allow them our brain to assemble fragments and disjecta membra of ancient tales, childrens stories, stuff from the news, from our nightmares and dreams, things we’ve seen and things we’ve heard and make something that is at once new and old at the same time. Maybe this patchworking is why sometimes the things one finds and writes seem like they are older and even ancient.
    It’s a profound and wonderful mystery.
    Oh and I have an article upstairs about how the brain works during daydreams…I shall maybe post sections of it tomorrow maybe.
    We subscribe to NEw Scientist and there are fabulous articles every week.

    Comment by viv66 | January 12, 2009

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