Creating a Text – Clare Dudman
What phases are involved in the creation of a text?
For me the creation of text depends on my reading and experiences. Since all of my books for adults have been based on historical events in foreign lands I have considered it essential to go there and ask questions. Initially I just walk around imagining what it must have been like to be there.
Then I visit museums, I make notes, I conduct interviews and I try to become the person I am writing about. I watch videos, I read books – lots and lots of books, I go on courses, I try to learn different languages. It is quite intensive. I like to have as many different experiences as possible. For one book I learnt to become a shaman because I wanted one of my characters to have that sort of spirituality and the only way to fully understand was to try to become one myself and learn some of what it is like to go on shamanic journeys.
I suppose I try to immerse myself but I don’t actively think about writing, not at first. That comes eventually on its own. I think all these experiences are like filling a room. Eventually, by the time I am ready to write, this room is packed with ideas and sensations all jumbled up together. But they are diffuse things and I know they won’t last long because my memory is so bad. I have to accumulate them quickly and all at once so I can make distant connections otherwise they fade. The best connections are between things which have never before been connected. They make the most powerful original metaphors.
I’ve also found that the process of finding these metaphors cannot be forced. They come on their own without my actively looking for them. Eventually a sentence might come to me in the middle of the night when I’m half asleep and I know immediately that it’s ‘the one’ – the sentence that will start it all and I have to force myself to get up and write it down otherwise it will go. Then, once I am at my desk, I have to force myself to keep going until that mood is gone and I can go back to sleep. That’s how it is for the writing that I like the best – the lyrical stuff. Then the writing flows and it seems to come more readily if I am a little tired because I am less inhibited.
A lot depends on mood, I think, and one way I have sometimes found useful in summoning up this creative mood is to use music. I think it makes me relax and allows my emotions to surface and then the writing can start to flow.
Other times I have to work to a structure and I worry more. The writing I produce then has a slightly different character from the other sort of writing since it is more obviously directed towards the plot. I usually have the outline worked out in advance and when I do this sort of writing I tend to stick to that. This sort of writing has the hardness of bones without flesh and it more obviously propels the story forward. It depends more on logic and less on metaphor and connections. But sometimes I allow myself to stray – I stray so much that new subplots and characters develop and the other sort of writing then takes over.
So there are two sorts of thinking leading to two different sorts of writing in my work: the softer writing depending on research and experiences and the production of metaphors, and the harder writing of action and dialogue which depends on the logistics of the plot. I find it useful to have both because when one fails I can go back to the other and there is always something I can do. Most of the time it precludes writer’s block.
Clare Dudman is a writer, her children’s novel Edge of Danger won the Kathleen Fidler award; her other books include Wegeners Jigsaw and 98 Reasons for Being. Her website is Clare Dudman and she blogs at: Keeper of the Snails.