Where Writing Starts

“Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and day-dreaming—in thinking, not in writing.”

~ Joyce Carol Oates

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post about how we are all writers, even when we think we’re not. Even when we don’t have the desire to write, we are constantly writing our destiny and our lives with every text we send, every plan we make, and every mark we leave on the world.

This is our unconscious writing.

Writing without an Idea

For those who are pantsers, or who mingle in the pantsing world, we hope that our unconscious mind will begin to flow when we sit down to write. We hope to bring our unconscious writing into the conscious mind so we can construct vast worlds, beautiful language, and important truths.

I once played that game with NaNoWriMo one year—It was the worst NaNo start I had ever had. My boyfriend at the time and I broke up, and I found out my grandmother was dying, and I drove 4 hours with dodgy SatNav to be there (at this point, I had only just moved back to the UK, where my mom’s half of the family lives), and then I found myself stranded in Warwick for a few days. Oh yeah, and then the U.S. presidential election results came in. It was a rough week, to say the least, and I struggled to get the words out. I closed my eyes and began typing, hoping it made sense.

Image from VisitWarwick.co.uk

Being in Warwick was surreal. I had never been in a place that still had buildings from the 15th century before. And its oddness kept my mind off everything, and my mind revolved around the story I was working on, set in a futuristic city modeled after Warwick. I took notes, I went back to my hotel and stared at the ceiling, I explored the history—anything to forget the hurt.

While I had no idea where my story was going, I meditated on it. I thought about it. I constructed my characters. I developed motivations. I was writing without even writing. I thought about writing, even though the words weren’t necessarily flowing onto the page.

Before we even put our fingertips to the keyboard, we have to have an idea of what we were going to say. The idea formulates before we even formulate the first sentence.

Writing with Air

When I talk about writing through the elements in a blog post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned the element of air. The element of air is the conception of an idea. We take this idea, we find intrigue with it, and we mull it over in our minds. We watched leaves in the trees below, we watch people walking down the streets, we watch a spider weave its web, while we contemplate, stretch and mold our idea.

And when we feel like we have a good grasp of this idea then we find our way to communicate it, whether that’s telling someone else about our idea, making notes about the idea, or even beginning our story. This is all pure air energy.

When we carve out the space to think about our idea, we are practicing a form of meditation. This is a form of mindfulness, in which we focus on one thing, and that one thing is our idea.

As writers, we are always writing. We are always working on our craft, whether we’re aware of it or not. To make writing a conscious part of our lives, we need to bring that subconscious writing into the forefront and actively consider our writing.

We need to write all the time. We need to invoke air.

How do you use air energy?

Your Homework

Your homework is to keep a notepad with you and try to write down when you catch yourself thinking about writing. Notice how often you do it, and just record it for a week.

After the week, reflect on what you recorded. Do you feel like you should be thinking about writing more? Less? Do you feel that you’re doing alright?

Share your result!


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Published by

Nicola Thompson

Born and raised in the Pacific North West (Washington State to be specific), I'm currently living on a farm, raising chickens, and writing in North Yorkshire. A former editor of Durham University's online magazine, The Bubble, I also write for the magazine Carpe Nocturne, and have several short stories published in a variety of anthologies.

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