I wonder if other writers are more orderly than I in their composition process. I get one seed of an idea and then sort of burst out of the gate like a bull at a rodeo, flailing around. At least that's how it seems to me. It's very obsessive--I have all of these disjointed ideas, images, dialogues, and I need to compress them into a form that might at some point be readable, even compelling.
I'd like to say I use an orderly process--index cards or legal pads or even a working outline--but it's far more vague than that. I think I'm actually waiting for magic, or maybe the Holy Spirit. :)
I read a terrific book once called MAGIC, RHETORIC, and LITERACY: AN ECCENTRIC HISTORY OF THE COMPOSING IMAGINATION, by William A. Covino. It's a complex book which traces the link between words, magic, and human thought throughout the ages. In the ancient world, thought itself was thought to be a magical process; Aristotle wrote that "phantasy is our only basis for speculative reasoning." Throughout the ancient world and into the Renaissance, in the writing of greats like Plato, Aristotle, Pico, Aquinas, Augustine--there is a suggestion that writing itself, and the ideas that seem to come from nowhere--are magical processes.
Even into the Romantic Period, Covino contends, there were writers who clung to the notion that the composing imagination was rooted in something magical:
"Romantic fascination with the magical imagination is explicit in Blake's visionary poetry, Wordsworth's and Coleridge's conjunction of the natural and the supernatural in the Lyrical Ballads, Percy Shelley's faith in the power of language and mind over cultural and political matter in Prometheus Unbound, The Witch of Atlas, and A Defense of Poetry, and Mary Shelley's portrayal of a magical world ravaged by a monster of science in Frankenstein.
English Romantics turned to magic in order to license the powers of the composing imagination, to find a discourse for intellectual and political revolution, and to define writing as a liberatory force that constructs realities."
I always remember this book when I begin to compose, because I often feel that I'm waiting for some exterior thing, some process that begins outside of myself. I'm curious to know what other writers would say about this. Leave comments, please!