Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Feeding the soul

I'm not much of a mind-body-spirit type of a person, though I am quite keen on yoga. There is a small part of me that still thinks I am a Bryan Ferry girl, circa 1981, and therefore anything hippyesque Must Be Shunned. 

However, this is not altogether rational. And more and more, I feel that the writing life is not a life that should be lived exclusively in the head. We are not brains on sticks. Nor are we sentient robots who can usefully plug ourselves into an electronic machine - laptop, PC, whatever - and then tap our trapped thoughts out onto a keyboard. Writing connects up our physical, emotional and mental selves, it links sensation, memory, habits, everything.

Therefore - and here comes the spiritual bit - it also connects to what we might call our souls. By which I mean that inner part of our psyche which is unique: consciousness, imagination, our inner being. As Julia Cameron has said, much of our time as writers draws on this, and so it should. But sometimes we need to feed our spirits, and our energy as Artists. (I know this sounds a bit embarrassing, but this is what you are if you are in the making-up game.) 


Claire Keegan
Sometimes, though, you need to do the opposite and feed that inner being, and find ways of recharging your energies. I found the perfect way to do this at the London Short Story Festival on Sunday, when I went to a brilliant writing workshop run by Claire Keegan. If you don't know her work, you are in for a treat, and if you ever have chance to hear her speak, don't miss it.

Keegan was talking about the short story, with the focus on the sentence and the paragraph, and the way that the draft text and the imagination work together when we are developing a narrative. I thought it might be a restrictive way to approach fiction before I went, but the reverse was true. Her approach makes you proud to see writing as a calling, but at the same time she insists that good writing only happens when we abandon pretension and egotism and let the words find their own logic. As she put it: 'I believe that whatever you have to write is under the text in front of you.' 

There were lots of other insights as well, such as: 'We should draw on the strangeness of being alive, the stuff we can’t say to each other.' 

I came away brimming with ideas, and with hope for the writing I haven't done yet. 

2 comments:

  1. Just finished "Dark Aemelia" and wept my way through the last chapter. You feel about Shakespeare the way I do, and that's pretty intense. My particular obsession is "Hamlet", and the sonnets.

    I am also quite keen on yoga. I have wonderful memories of how alive and flexible and connected I felt when I used to do it. Ahem. 8-)

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  2. Thank you so much for these lovely comments, Marcheline, it means a lot! I also love Hamlet and the sonnets. Have you seen the David Tennant TV version? It is fantastic.

    I have to say that I wept myself when I was writing that final scene. And I was a bit in love with Shakespeare while I was writing the book. I was sad to leave it all behind, and it's hard to move on to the next one, though also exciting to start a new project.

    Have promised myself that I will start doing yoga again this summer - it's been work, work, work recently, and that's not sustainable.

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