The problem with most people is that they just don’t ‘think’. I don’t mean this unkindly, I simply mean in that today’s media rich lifestyles, the tendency is to be swamped with stimulus that invades our consciousness and pushes out not only our ‘inner commentaries’ but also our natural tendency to critically analyse the experiences we find ourselves in.
As a writer, I feel it is essential to observe all of life’s intricate tapestry to be able to talk about it. This was never more apparent than when I recently took a bus ride to the coast. Normally, I would take the car and drive but on this occasion decided that public transport was a safer option (my vehicle not being in a fit state to cope with such a lengthy haul being the primary motivator!).
It has been a long time since I used a bus and I had forgotten how it changes one’s perspective on the journey: whilst driving you are held captive in one position, with eyes firmly fixed ahead and thoughts that are focussed (through necessity) on the road and the actions of other motorists around you. However, when you submit the navigating to a designated ‘captain’ the mind is free to wander with the prospect of having nothing of any significance to do for a period of time. In my case, it was a ‘coast’ to the coast.
I was immediately struck by the diversity of ‘characters’ who shared my crossing and I was engaged in the process of ‘people watching’ for much of the time. It occurred to me that I was surrounded by a film’s worth of engaging figures, from the protagonists and antagonists to the villain’s sidekicks, supporting heroes and walk-on actors. Each one of them was rich with backstory, mannerisms, dynamics and dimension but I had a feeling that I was the only one who was feeling this way.
There was the young man I dubbed ‘the comic book guy’ who spent the whole ninety minutes on his web-phone (with earphones tightly plugged in) who checked his mail, updated his Facebook status, bought stuff on Amazon, read a film review, uploaded some photos and all the while was completely oblivious to the fact that he was on a bus with fifty or so complete and deeply interesting ‘strangers’.
I, on the other hand, was vividly aware of the smell of lavender, wood fires and cut grass that was blowing in through the open windows. I saw lambs leaping, cows feeding, and crows circling recently ploughed fields. I saw a farm and sheds and houses with people gardening, a darkly inviting woodland, people on bicycles and a Muslim praying on a mat in gas station forecourt. Inside, I saw a multitude of clashing and exquisitely intertwining lives and I pondered for a moment on how we would all interact in the event of a catastrophe.
Opposite me was an old man. His brown-skinned hands clasping the rail in front, the purple veins and brown nails telling a tale of a life rich with adventure and hard work. He wore a dark green raincoat, a tweed cap and had thick, gold-rimmed glasses and throughout it all, he smiled to himself. But behind him was someone, I felt, held a darker secret. He was dressed in a dark sweater over a checked shirt with a baseball cap, the brim pulled down to his green-tinted aviator shades. On his lap was a black holdall and through the slightly open zip I could see the head of a doll.
After a while, I noticed that the old man had made a ‘silent connection’ with another old man further down the bus and this seemed to unsettle the ‘ex-marine’ with the baby in the bag - I wondered about him for a moment as I studied his unease. Was he a paedophile? a baby murderer? (were there real body parts in that bag?) or was he simply a grandpa off to see his granddaughter? - These possibilities and many more, cascaded through my imagination as we trundled on and after a while I decided to read - to take advantage of my brain’s ‘downtime’, (whilst waiting for the bus I had bought a paperback from a second hand store - James Herbert - and immersed myself in ghosts for the remainder of the journey.)
Arriving in the Yorkshire seaside town of Scarborough in the early afternoon, I wandered with my daughter and her friend through the bustling shopping street down to the sea front’s ‘main drag’. While they went into various stores I waited amongst the chattering throng and was drawn to a street preacher with a placard claiming that ‘THE WORLD WILL END IN 2012’. Naturally, I was deeply curious.
He handed me a poorly photocopied leaflet outlining his ten reasons why the world will end and I was stunned by his proclamation. So much so that I would like to share with you his chilling vision as it provided the final piece in my ‘movie’ outline of the whole day - so far, I had the characters, the scenario and now the plot for a cataclysmic disaster movie that was going to take millions to produce. As the pamphlet was quite detailed (and enthusiastically rambling) I would like to paraphrase, just to get to the meat of the matter:
TEN REASONS WHY THE WORLD WILL END.
1. According to the Bible, God has allotted just 6,000 years for the world to run its course. The deadline being just two years away.
2. The Pope is the most evil man in the world today. It is written that he is the ‘last one’.
3. The Roman Catholic Church are the ‘Anti-Christ’.
4. The New World Order is already taking shape.
5. When the world starts talking about peace and safety then destruction shall come upon them.
6. World-wide problems are deliberately manufactured.
7. Resources are running out.
8. Aliens are deceivers and non-religious ‘teachers’ are to be mistrusted.
9. Only God is in total control of the world
10. Satan’s followers would look foolish if nothing happened.
And finally, a rather awkward number eleven crept in right at the end -
“The Church is controlled by Satan”.
If you don’t believe me, you can read all about these ‘Conspiracist Christians’ at the home page - The Church of God’s Remnants - and see how we must all repent and join them, in case that, on the glorious day, we are swept aside in an avalanche of retribution and anger.
All of which made me think. Perhaps the ideas expressed by the preacher were extreme, misguided or even inevitable but more than anything it showed that someone, somewhere had taken time to think about it and I started to come to a few of my own conclusions. What I would like to leave you with, are my ‘ten reasons why writer’s creativity will be at an end’ if they don’t follow the ‘universal laws of the muse’.
TEN REASONS WHY CREATIVITY WILL END.
1. THINK. Turn off the TV, the radio and the internet (for a while) They stop you from ‘thinking’ (which is what the media giants want in any case)
2. LISTEN. That voice you hear as you read this? That’s YOU. Pay close attention and let yourself describe what’s going on.
3. ASK WHY. Question everything, assume nothing. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet (perhaps the sky ‘isn’t’ falling!)
4. TAKE A DIFFERENT TACK. Learn about philosophy and discover new ways of thinking, analysing and experiencing.
5. MAKE NOTES. Carry a notebook at all times (ideas are like fish - they must be speared on the end of a pencil before they swim away.)
6. WATCH AND LEARN. Writing is merely describing life and you can’t do this unless you know what it looks like.
7. GIVE YOURSELF SPACE. Listen to your inner voice. Encourage it to talk to you.
8. BE OPEN MINDED. Open your senses to the current experience. Take in every detail. Let your ‘writer’s radar’ be on red alert at all times.
9. TRUST YOURSELF. Publishers are fickle. Don’t read so much that it influences your writing.
10. WRITE IT ALL DOWN. Every thing that you see, hear, smell, taste or feel is essential detail that can one day fuel the fires of an almighty story.
THINK FOR YOURSELF, and listen to your own voice.