Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cooking up Fiction with Flying Colours

Writing fiction is so different from cooking or painting.
When I cook, I happily throw together a number of ingredients, trying things out, improvising as I go along, tasting to check whether I am on the right track.
Painting watercolours goes along the same lines. The paints and the brushes are the vegetables and the herbs. I may start with a shape in green and blue, allowing the colours to blend. Just looking at what happens makes me decide how to continue. There is a definite interaction between me and the painting. It is a dialogue between the watercolours, with their distinct, ever changing characters, and the brush that is controlled – more or less – by me.
Writing has no ingredients. Pen and paper, or the PC, are not the stuff stories are made of. Literature is a mental art form, just like music. Therefore I cannot just sit down and play a little with the ingredients. There are none.
I could play around with words, and I do at times, and they produce what may be called poetry. Poetry comes closest to painting, in that it allows one to fool around with the components.
Fiction or drama do not work like that. They need ideas, underlying themes, plot development, and so on. These are all ingredients that need to be conjured up intellectually.
That is why I sit and stare at my screen from time to time, without any ideas emerging about how to continue. I am stuck. I have a writer’s block. Impossible to open the fridge to see what it contains. No endless mixing of colours on my palette to find the right mood.
All I can do is go for a vigorous walk in the woods, or have a discussion with the members of my writing group. They are a much better remedies for a clogged pipeline.
Then the flow can come back with the colourful flair of my cooking!

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