xxi

So the first thing I think of when W2B told me about the typewriter, and teased me with the details of what it looked like, was a kids self-discovery story about a boy rummaging through an old barn and finding a cobwebby typewriter – which when he touches opens a raw route direct to his imagination, taking him on wide adventures which end with a pile of manuscript telling the story he’s just experienced.

I sat there thinking “Hey, this is exciting”, but in her wisdom my better half asks the crucial question – but is it very original? I try to defend it against things like The Neverending Story (but it’s his story, his imagination) or Inkheart (that’s just books coming to life, not ideas) until eventually I’m forced to admit something. The boy is me. The typewriter is my dream. The magic manuscript my fool’s hope.

It’s about my creative process. When we’ve tried the poem recently I’ve been like a pedant, cribbing every line and complaining that it doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t read right, where’s the rhyme, where’s the yadda yadda. Not all the time, but often enough that the writing has become an exhausting experience for the both of us, and we’ve had to stop without ever really getting anywhere.

I grasp at it, pull at it, try to force my creativity into shapes I don’t even know what they look like but know that I will when I see them and I know what they aren’t. Except just as often I don’t know what they aren’t because I can’t even see by now and all I’m thinking about are the rules, mine or otherwise, which say what’s right or wrong. I can’t feel it any more, so it’s dying.

What these posts do so well is force me to stop constantly editing as I go along. Not completely, I rewrote part of that line, but it isn’t something I can let myself get away with too often, because the whole point of this is to just let the words flow and come straight out without me questioning their worth or whether there’s anything better. This is far less exhausting and much more enlightening. I am stupid.

So now I’ve got Gunny and we’re all ready to go, the next thing I know I have to do is write the whole poem, just throw something out there, and forget about what it looks or sounds like in terms of what’s ‘right’ or whatever and try to just listen to what’s coming out and recognise the thread of momentum at the heart of it. That’s how I wrote the first two verses I came up with, and basically the first verse was perfect from the off.

Overthinking can kill what you’re working on, not just because you eventually just forget what the hell you were trying to say anyway but also because the actual process of creating, writing just starts to bore the hell out of you. I make the creative process exhausting, I make it something which I’ve done my damndest to avoid these past 15 years, and now I’m paying the price – I have little to show.

But I don’t have to. Actually as much as the silly little story is about my yearning that someone, something, anything would just take the responsibility for creating the worlds I imagine away from me and give it back when it’s all perfect and done, the idea of losing yourself and travelling to that place you are imagining and really forgetting even about the fact you’re writing is a powerful way to go.

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About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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