It is said of the great 19th century musical genius, Ludwig van Beethoven, that he would scribble on numerous pages of manuscript paper while composing a single work of music and then just scrap them.
His contemporaries have often reported that one corner of his workspace was occupied by a mountain of rejected works, many of them complete works of music. He simply chose to reject them as they no longer suited his fancy, or perhaps he gathered material from them for developing later works.
This is, in fact, true of most successful creators. The main reason behind this endless process of trial and error is the old saying, if you can get yourself to start something, half of your work is done. You simply have to let yourself flow with it, the rest can always be edited and worked out.
Primary & secondary process thinking
In Freudian psychology, we come across the concepts of primary and secondary process thinking. Primary process thinking involves the spontaneous ideation of unconscious thoughts and emotional drives that come from deep within our id, or unconscious self.
Secondary process thinking is the process generated by more mature, conscious and organised thought based on the higher functions of language, grammar, syntax and rationality. Any worthy piece of writing, or creation in general, is the result of a successful mixture of these two processes.
Magic that makes us come back to it
Think of a poem which touches us deeply – we may admire its poetic excellence, its rhyming, its use of metaphor, the relevance of its context, but there is always something in it that we can’t consciously put a finger on – that spark of magic that makes us come back to it time and time again – something that touches us deep inside. That is the core of the work which can never be achieved through conscious effort: that is what we often refer to as inspiration.
Most of the time, inspiration is a spontaneous occurrence that comes like a deluge of emotions, like a sudden burst of thunder that should not be thwarted or overlooked. It must be immediately addressed and penned down. Perhaps it is merely a bunch of disjointed thoughts, seemingly irrational – but that could provide the core of some great piece of work which we might later be able to develop, using conscious effort.
Act upon our creative impulses
Inspiration is an elusive thing – sometimes it hits us the moment we start writing, sometimes we struggle to find it till the very end of our endeavour. The only thing we can do to achieve it is to keep striving at it – and the best way to do it is to act upon our creative impulses. Procrastination is the creator’s greatest enemy.
If you simply brood over writing the next piece, it will never happen. The solution is to begin making drafts. We are very proud creatures and our level of expectation from ourselves is extremely high. It is this trait that prevents us from creating something daring – a successful creator must overcome this human inhibition. Every word you write will not be gold, more often than not it will turn out to be unworthy ramblings. But once you build up that gamut of material, you can work out wonders from it.
Golden treasury of invaluable sources
Those drafts will become your golden treasury of invaluable sources to draw upon when you sit down and organise your final product. We always see the final product of great writers, poets and composers and wonder with awe at their genius. We fail to remember that those works are not first drafts – they are results of endless processes of trial and error, of striving to create perfection from the labyrinth of imperfect creation.
Start scribbling those words, and revisit them over and over again, take what you can from them, edit them as best you can – those are not your failures, they are the building blocks behind your success.