Mr Thierry The Writing Retreat’s First Guest? Will curiosity really kill the cat?

Apparently the brain is very good at filing away new information and it appears to kind of categorise it too and usually bases this kind of categorisation on how these ideas may well be implemented in the future. If we spend all day baking bread then we tend to think about associated skills and knowledge in relation to bread making only. After all, why bother thinking about bread making if you aren’t going to be involved in making some? I might well go upstairs and make a fruit loaf now it occurs to me! Sometimes one needs an escape from prose writing and it’s incredible where your mind goes when you are busy concentrating on something mundane.

We can sometimes become quite stuck in our thought processes and do our best from allowing our minds to wander. When I am writing my journal I find myself having had the most complicated daydream whilst apparently writing line after line of text. I am always pulling myself back to the task in hand, like training a puppy to walk on a lead. Occasionally I allow my thoughts to run free and see where they end up. Yesterday for example I was in the writing retreat courtyard and came up with all kinds of new ideas for revamping the area which had never occurred before. Where did they come from?

But I digress (of course) where was I? Oh yes, we need to allow old information and old solutions to be applied to different areas and in that way we become involved in what is neatly termed conceptual blending. Isn’t that what poets do? Look for new associations like comparing love to an onion for example. This is the basis for real creative thinking and if we are looking for a breakthrough or some kind of insight which will really resonate then we have to learn to look in the interstices, allow things to stray from one side to another, allow the trailing growth to dangle and trespass. What happens if you take a character from a 19th century novel and place her in the now? What insights might Emma draw from being involved in social media for example?

What we are really considering here is how imagination might possibly work. If we maintain awareness of what our brains are doing we can catch all kinds of ideas before they evaporate. Why have writers always carried notebooks in the past? Because we never know when our brains are going to make associations or transpose one bit of information somewhere else. These links are in many ways unique as you are combining what you know and perhaps have experienced about the world and separate entities and put them together. That’s what makes us so individual.

So the skill we all should promote is recombining, revising, looking again and looking differently. That’s why it’s good to go out, to observe to be open to new influences, to listen to something new, to attempt something you have no previous experience of doing. Writing at a station, outside a café, at a writing retreat, an airport lounge are all opportunities for exploration.

Imagine writing a big match commentary about the end of a love affair. Who would strike the winning goal? What will conceptual blending bring to your creativity? How might you blend aspects of today into a new piece of work, go on, have a go now? It’s worth considering; curiosity might have killed the cat but he would have used up nine lives in the process and what a way to go!

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