Or perhaps that is better titled “Perception”. Either way, they amount to the same thing.
One thing that must be opened before you can write is your perception of the world; you need a fresh perspective so you can see beyond the everydayness of your own world, and move into the imaginal worlds of your villains and heroes. Unless you want to write from that place – but I don’t. Reading to me has always been about escape – it only seems natural that writing would follow the same route.
But what does opening your perception mean? How can you change your perspective?
For me, my imagination was stymied by lack of experience. I have the kind of writing imagination that works like a big compost heap. I need input, lots of input, and then it has to stew awhile. Well, that’s how the stories came, anyway, short and sporadic as they were.
But what of the details? What of the worlds that I want to create, the houses, the roads, the uses of objects, the cultures? I read the introductory chapters to my mentor’s classes on character, culture, plot, and I put that into the pile. As it turns out the detail composts well too.
I’ve been travelling for the past 4 years, gawking at all sorts of cultures and objects and houses and ways of people doing things, but somehow it was all just a wash of humanity doing things that I either didn’t understand or thought were cool (or both!), that made me contemplate my own existence and culture, more than anything. It didn’t inspire me to create, only to reject or to replicate.
But recently, after reading my current lessons, I had the opportunity to travel in the Basque country, and travel finally opened up to me – as did how it affected how I thought about what I’m writing.
For the first time, I stood in a building and saw possibilities for my characters; scene ideas sprang forward, plot directions came through, and I received a tantalising glimpse of how I might create the world they inhabit. A simple view of a walled, terraced garden, voices rising from the courtyard below, a small wooden hut beyond the barred window, a servant’s kitchen beyond that – and suddenly I was transported to another dimension, another time, and the impetus of the whole tale popped out at me. I felt a sense of history, and why people might have built things the way they did, and what lives might have been lived in those very places.
All that had been quietly brewing in me; the knowledge I had absorbed, the flimsy tangents of an idea, the problems it presented and how to resolve them, the excitement of random elements that didn’t seem to fit together but thrilled me anyhow; all of this coalesced in front of my eyes as I stared out of this window of otherness, and suddenly, I had a story.
Not just a story, but a way to see, a way to comprehend, a way to surge forward and write something which I can believe in and enjoy being in day after day after day as I write my first novel. A direction! Clarity! A path that I can see, one that guides me and allows my imagination to burst forth, that my Muse is happily skipping upon and picking up things along the way, showing me the worth she’s found, laying the words out on the ground in images, ready for the taking, ready for the writing of this story.
You would expect that travel in and of itself would be a perception widener; and it is to a certain degree. My perception of life and myself has certainly expanded; my concept of possibility is much stronger and stranger than before.
But it took a good teacher to open my eyes to how to apply that to my writing.