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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Creating a Text – Iain Rowan

What phases are involved in the creation of a text?

It’s like sculpture.

You start with a huge block of stone and the idea that you would like to sculpt an elephant. You might even have some drawings that you have spent a while working on, capturing the essence of elephant. So you chip away, trying to find the elephant you had in your mind. But the stone does not always split the way you want it to, and the ears aren’t quite working out the way that you thought that they would, and part way through you realise that you’re trying to make something that just isn’t there in the stone. But it is the beginnings of a reasonable buffalo. So you change direction, and work away.

One final tap of the hammer, and it’s done. Come see the buffalo, you tell a few people: friends, other sculptors, curators of galleries. Tell me what you think. And so they do.

You weigh up what they tell you, and you listen to your own doubts, and with a weary heart you decide that yes, you need to work on it some more. Maybe de-emphasise the buffalosity of the whole thing, head in a more equine direction. Before long, you realise that although it’s going to take a lot of work, a horse is what’s really there in the stone, what’s really there in your mind. So you make it the best horse you possibly can.

(Of course, when you finally finish, and your stone horse is on public display, you can see where that flank is slightly too curved, that nostril not quite flared enough. But other people tell you they like it. You are happy. And then someone tells you it’s a great horse, really a very good horse indeed, but you know, shame it wasn’t an elephant. Big market for elephants).

Iain Rowan has published many short stories. His crime novel, One of Us, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers Association 2006 Debut Dagger. He blogs at:

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