Saturday, 12 July 2008

Bats in the attic

I read an interview with the TV writer Paul Abbot today which, as well as telling me about his extraordinary early life and extended family, also mentioned visiting a hypnotist to get him to stop coming up with ideas. I don't know whether he was joking or not, but I think there is something underpinning it that I relate to.

It is seen as such an objectively good thing to come up with lots of ideas - particularly by those who find it difficult - that no one really talks about the problems. And there are problems.

There is no point to have loads of ideas you are not in a position to act upon. Ideas can be incredibly distracting. I have loads racing round my head at any given time and a lot of the discipline of writing (or illustration or cartooning or painting) is to shut the extraneous ideas out.

Part of why I started writing was in order to fix some of the ideas I had buzzing round in my head. Why was I plotting stories and inventing characters and coming up with dialogue on the train and as I fell asleep at night? It was all a bit crazy. Calling myself a writer seemed to validate this behaviour.

The trick to working - and knowing this does not in any way mean that I have perfected the practice - is to grab every good idea and use it then and there. Only then do you find out whether it really was so good after all. If you don't they flap around in your head like bats in the attic.

1 comment:

  1. this makes a lot of sense Chris - too many ideas is delibitating - I find it particularly hard not to get drawn into trying to explore many things all at once, especially when I'm teaching - I can see how a student might create some very interesting work, sometimes even if they can't, and feel tempted to try it out myself. Also unless I start to visualize an idea fairly quickly, it gets smothered by the next one - as you say, you have to endeavour to seize the moment susan