The Creative Process: On Reading and Writing

“First we eat, then we beget; first we read, then we write.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

On Reading

The art of reading is a creative pursuit, it tends to precede its complementary face; writing. Reading and writing are just as synonymous as night and day, black and white, and front and back. The creative polarity has a cyclical nature that continually alternates, carrying the reader to the writer, and the writer to the reader. Reading should be a productive endeavor, one that encourages active confrontation with what is being comprehended. A person should refrain from remaining uninvolved and inactive: he must incriminate and connect, actively considering how the text relates to his life. Active reading aims to reinforce the reader and writer’s power of books, while moderating the solitary power of books. Nevertheless, reading has its boundaries and risks; reading as a means of escapism is a fool’s move. Read for personal gain and utility, not as a means of evasion.

Samuel Coleridge classifies four kinds of readers; the hourglass, the sponge, the jelly bag, and the Golconda. The hourglass is immutable; it passes on what it absorbs. The sponge is like the hourglass, but a little dustier. The jelly bag is the most unintelligent, compressing all that is valuable and retaining the useless. The Golconda is possibly the most potent of all; it strains everything and holds on to the most precious jewels. Reading calls for good discernment, your aim should not be retention of all that is said, but of what is most useful to you. When you know what to wrest, you should endeavor to teach it to yourself because a man can scrutinise only what is in agreement with his attitude.

Emerson memorised nothing except that which he perceived to be a reflection and prediction of his state of mind; “For only that book can we read which relates to me something that is already in my mind.” Simply put, you can understand a line of reasoning and perceive its force only by its compatibility with your intellectual framework. Understanding is a matter of relation and connection, for no book is valuable apart from other books, but in association with what you have cultivated from numerous others, it carries leverage.

Most writers, as a matter of fact, read with the purpose of fortifying and nourishing their writing, since it is through the act of reading that the writer clarifies his thought and polishes his sword. Emerson says, “Everything a man knows and does enters into and modifies his expression of himself.” Your expression is a symptom of what you understand, and what you understand and carry out reforms and adjusts your articulation, diction, and depth. When a new concept is understood and becomes firmly embedded in your intellectual framework, it reorients your expression. The more polished your expression, the more profound your framework comes to be.

Goethe says, “What is genius, but the faculty of seizing and turning to account everything that strikes us?” Brilliance is the ability to reckon and articulate that which is arresting to the soul; to grab that distinct impression and let it unravel itself with each stroke of the pen. The most eminent mastermind will cease to be precious if he professes to extract entirely from his intelligence and imagination. Accordingly, Goethe goes on to say, “every one of my writings has been furnished to me by a thousand different persons, a thousand different things.” The genius wields not only what is his own, but also what is not; it is rather how he puts it to use that lays bare his gifted excellence. The genius is a wise thief: he knows how to pluck out the good sense of others and mend it to his liking.

When your wit is creative, don’t read. No matter how engrossing a text, if you don’t interrupt your reading and give yourself an interval for consideration and reflection, you downright wreck your reasoning; do not allow yourself to read for a lengthy time, even when it is enticing. If you find yourself riveted after reading a single paragraph, simply stop. After all, you should realise that correct discernment is about identifying what is most eminent in a text; frequently, a chapter is ample to prompt creative writing.

“The glance reveals what the gaze obscures.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many times, you can ascertain from the chapter’s opening and briefly observing the sentences whether you need to read it fully. With your writer’s heed in mind, perceptively flip from page to page, not casually lingering with the author until he entrusts what you are trying to find; lodging yourself there as if it’s your residence. Remember: you read to set forth something characteristically your own; particular and with your bent imbued in it. If at once the spark has been ignited, stop and write your reasoning. A good piece of text should transport the reader to the writer and the writer to the reader; this was also Emerson’s supposition for reading and writing. When such a relationship is formed, the written work disperses into the link between reader and writer; the foremost works all produce this effect. Reading is the means, writing the intention.

On Journaling

Keeping a physical journal is invaluable to the progressive writer; when you become accustomed to transcribing your expositions about yourself meticulously, you clear your judgement and refine your thought. You use a ‘commonplace’ book to express vibrant and deep portrayals, brilliant interpretations, a memorable quote, personal notions, and elevated junctures from your life and study; you put in writing everything you want to recall and clasp. A commonplace book is not, however, an appointment book, a calendar, or a sole token of your sentiments. You can use a commonplace book to write each line of thought which comes to mind on a theme that you find interesting. Do not try to refine your reasoning while writing a line of thought, simply follow the natural course and articulate it as it first emerges. A journal is not meant to be symmetrical, you have the perfect freedom to spring from one theme to another without restriction, though you will find that a dividing line between trails of thought to be convenient to preserve efficiency. After you have written a line of thought, you could add a categorisation above it for simple reachability. Moreover, it is useful to index the back of a journal for swift reference without reading through everything every time you are searching for material. The undirected arrangement and lack of structure are what maintain things in their basic state, without further embellishment or remedy. A journal is meant to be as imperfect as it has to be; uncultured and rough.

The Passion of Creation by Leonid Pasternak

The Language of Nature

Language is the petrified remains of poetry. The poet and writer reconnect all things to nature; it is the product of a brilliant man to rectify that which is degenerating. The true poet can, by his mark of genius, penetrate the disintegrating phraseology and once more buckle words to observable things: that is what great writers do, they rejoin words to their strayed facts, which were buried and left behind. Besides, there are grounds as to why daytime and nighttime appear to be of great significance to the human being; we attribute light with the positive pole, the dark with the negative pole; light is an understanding and awareness, darkness a lack of knowledge and unawareness. Nature is the reflector of man’s spirit; nature’s beauty is too the mind’s. The laws that govern nature are too the laws that govern man’s intellect. At that point, nature comes to be the gauge of man’s achievement. The more he pays no heed to nature, the less mastery over his mind. For that reason, that antiquated adage ‘know thyself’ and the contemporary adage ‘study nature’ finally reunite.

The meat and earnestness of man thrust out to his written words, the language of discussion is transplanted in the book and no work is written with minor importance. If you slit his words, they will grieve, as they carry his vigorous blood within them. In spite of that, grown men tend to intemperance on both edges; they protest too much, counsel in length, dare too slightly, and reproach themselves too shortly. Young men are more competent to create than adjudicate; more competent for performance than conference; and more competent for novel plans than resolved duties. The loftiest aims and aspirations are naturally concluded by one’s ability to take definite and quantifiable strides to attain them. The sensible and usual part of things is riveting when it assists or engenders something exceptional.

You should appeal not only to what your sentences are taking aim at but also to the components of the sentences. Even words of enlightenment are inanimate save they have some fire and zeal imbued in them to elevate them away from the page into the wit. The writer, then, shall instruct himself on writing, even when reading a text; pay close attention to how it could enlighten your word, Emerson had made a comment on good writing; “Nothing can be added to it, neither can anything be taken from it.” Effective writing is simple yet in-excessive, it embraces the substance without embellishing it.

When writing, shun adjectives and choose better nouns; there is nothing intimate about it and is the writer’s best fragment. Consequently, the wording should intend to narrate the actuality, not only imply it. The craft of writing is more about picking out notable things, and less about making things notable. Ask yourself, ‘which word can I dispense with? What word can I put in?’ Moreover, in your writing do not depict realities in a ‘cause and effect’ sequence; let fall a few connections in the string and furnish the reader with a ‘cause and effect’ a few times distant.

Once more, I shall allude to Emerson on engrossing writing; “The most interesting writing, is that which does not quite satisfy the reader. Try to leave a little thinking for him. . . . A little guessing does him no harm, so I would assist him with no connections. If you can see how the harness fits, he can. But make sure that you see it.” Writing is gripping when it does not gratify the reader, when you don’t totally aid him with links and give him room to hypothesise and ponder, for if you can discern the relationship, he can too with a little reasoning. Accordingly, consistency and logicality are found in the wit of the reader. The tenet of reading and writing is regard for what actually takes place, not what ought to take place.

Do not lay down pivots to hold together your writing. Do not feel compelled to follow the rule of uniformity with your writing; constancy is the little devil only for little intellects. So, do not worry yourself with consistency – the minute you smother and coat your articulation to make it fasten, you have set yourself up for a means of enfeeblement. Make the sure assumption that the facts will coordinate and go together, and regarding inaccuracies and errors; they will swiftly melt away. If you need to be at odds with yourself, enable yourself to be, but unpolluted and honed as both edges converge. So, the spirit of eloquence to the rhetorician and writer is the capacity to unbutton himself, and then to maximise himself by unbuttoning. Courage is an upstanding quality even in writing; direct, dashing, and immediate – a needy writer is he who has not taught himself the usage of bravery in the written word.

The act of writing, then, is more pivotal than the completed work; doing is more useful than finishing. For, mastery comes to an end at the moment of idleness; it occupies the instance of moving from a former state to a novel one – in the shooting, the aiming, the assembling – this very truth most people loathe; the soul grows by the practice of doing. Living for other people is not laborious, that is why so few people live for themselves. To live for yourself in a world where everybody lives for someone else is an act of creative defiance. Do not paint your troubles, lay them bare into the light, with a light-hearted attitude if possible, and open yourself up to yourself.

Further Reading

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