So I’ve come here with nothing, and not for the first time. It is, after all, “good writing practice” to turn up at the page without any particular agenda. You begin to move the pen across the page or, in this case, tap your fingers on the keys (I like these ones, they have a resistance and you can give them a bit of a bash, makes you feel you’re actually doing something) and then before you know it, for better or worse, you have a post, a poem, the beginning of a story, a fragment, a something. A couple of lines from an old school hymn begin to hum inside my head. I would like to push them away but they are very insistent:
“Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling”
I have nothing to say about this except that the creative unconscious works in mischievous ways its wonders to perform. It pushed out those last few words as well and is having a right laugh at my expense, I can tell you. The idea being that you come to the empty page with nothing and trust in the renewing and renewable power of the creative impulse to fill you and the page, just as the faithful come to the altar ready to receive the holy spirit. A poet of my acquaintance does describe the business of turning up at the page as being like a priest’s office in that you have to do it whether you feel like it or not, whatever your mood or inclination and even without a single member of congregation present and if you don’t want to commit then don’t be a priest/poet (delete where appropriate).
Personally, I prefer to talk about going to the coalface. When setting exercises for new students I would often favour the kind that had them putting pen to paper immediately and writing without much pause and less thought for as long as I saw fit in order to break through a few initial inhibitions and brush aside the gremlins that whispered how they weren’t allowed to write anything until they thought they had something worth saying – in which case we might all (with the exception of the students who came with a master plan to write the new Da Vinci Code or Harry Potter and wanted advice about how to market themselves and their yet-to-be-written best-seller) have sat there until kingdom come. I liked to tell my students that I too had “been to the coalface” and asked nothing of them that I hadn’t done myself, which was the truth. Apart from the idea that what they were about to do was real work, I quite liked the image of hacking away until you hit a seam. And unlike the idea of turning up with nothing in your hands, you carried a pickaxe (your voice, your style, your pen) which you had to use to get at the precious stuff.
So here I’ll be tomorrow, hacking away at a new poem, and because of where I am at right now (see previous post) I haven’t got a clue what I’ll be writing about, I will just be putting out words on paper (blue ballpoint, new notebook – shocking pink, a gift) and where there was nothing there will be something.
Time for bed, as Zebedee once said – a very long time ago.