Prospecting for Gold
I wrote earlier of the similarities between teaching and coal-mining. In this article, a close adaptation of that earlier one, you’ll be able to see a sharp comparison with creative writing too.
Writing is like prospecting for gold, rather than coal, though: filtering the stream of your conscious and unconscious creative activity looking for the shiny little nuggets that will bring you a wealth of interest.
Almost any train of thought contains within it those nuggets of glory, style, ideas and passion.
Like gold, these nuggets are not always evident on the surface. It takes considerable skill and patience to detect them, to dig for them and to extract them. Often they are so deeply buried that a writer must simply trust that they are there and persist long enough for them to manifest themselves in some way. Experience suggests, though, that they are always to be found, given enough persistence and sharpness on the part of the writer. That persistence can be very much like gold-prospecting by hand: taking a sieve and sifting away at the streams of consciousness that are occurring at any given moment in your mind as they pass by, moment by moment, minute by minute, day by day, until one day you strike lucky and see that twinkle of gold.
Striking gold, your work is transformed from a pretty solid collection of words linked together, some of which are worthwhile but many of which fall flat, into an active work of art. Gold attracts interest, admiration, attention - so do these nuggets from your imagination. Readers begin to ask for more; they reach for the as-yet-unfinished material; they sense that they have found someone who creates fresh, individual and exciting works.
It’s easy to give up. The surface landscape of creative writing, day after day, can be bleak. There are clues, though: what does your imagination keep bringing up? Most writers are more often that not totally unaware of the ‘coal’ within them. Only when they actually hit a seam and see the lines of twinkling gold in the rock face of their own imaginations do they begin to feel real eagerness and enthusiasm to write more.
Some people think of fiction writing as the latter part of this sequence, the bit where the writer works joyfully on the creative and enthralling parts of a work. In fact, the bulk of creative writing is like the bulk of gold-prospecting - patiently sifting and then laboriously digging deep, persisting day by day, and then finally reaping the rewards of discovery.