The other day I was half listening to a programme on Radio 4 and somebody mentioned the idea of ‘informed ignorance’ when thinking about the creative process. He meant that as we become more expert at our craft (through practice and learning from others), we can become freer in how we approach a project. The knowledge/skill/talent we have cultivated can then inform, but not get in the way of, our imagination going wild.
I rather like this notion. In response to last week’s post, a fellow writer talked about finding writing difficult if she ‘tries too hard’. Others have said that we come up with our most innovative thoughts when we turn away from a problem or look at it askance rather than head on. I think this probably only really works if we have this store of understanding which can underpin this ‘unthinking’ or ‘unconscious’ approach.
This week I’ve also been considering what makes good writing. I began reading a novel by a therapist which purported to explore aspects of psychology and depict therapy sessions. It should have been a novel I would have devoured with pleasure. However, I found the writing pedestrian.
I began to wonder what do I mean by this? What makes prose sing? Alliteration, assonance, metaphor, rhythm, word sounds – these are all techniques more associated with poetry. Yet, I think they are equally applicable to prose. OK, maybe not every phrase. But having sentences which balance around a particular word sound or a contradiction in word meaning, this, in my opinion, is when prose begins to dance (rather than plod) across the page.
I had some fab comments last time I threw in a question, so I’ll do it again: what do you think makes good writing?