Into the unknown

Suddenly, you know what you want to write. Then the questions come thick and fast. How should I start? Where should I take it?

Once there’s an idea, the tendency is to go to books, or the internet to support the process. We want facts, and learning to prop us up. We cling to other’s judgments as to what is right and wrong, good and bad. We forget that the only person who can judge our creation is ourselves. And no one can take the journey for us.

Before we start we can’t be sure of the form that the story or poem will take.

After all, if we know it all before we start, then nothing new will have come into being, nothing will have been created. How can the observer of the finished piece feel surprised and awed, if we aren’t inspired and awed by our journey? Beginning the process should be about going into the unknown. It’s like walking in a dark forest with a torch. Only the next step is illuminated, and even then, sometimes only partially.

As we set off we need to drop down into a general sense of how it is to be in the body.

A hazy feeling perhaps, held lightly. A place of possibility, of not-knowing. This is the place into which information will come. It’s from here we want to lead our decision-making. ‘The holistic, implicit bodily sense of a complex situation’, as Eugene Gendlin describes it.

The image on the homepage of the Wild Words website is of a painting by Henri Rousseau. Rousseau never visited a real jungle.  And he spent more than 20 years painting under the weight of the ridicule of his peers. He remained motivated, probably because he knew that, as Georgia O'Keeffe succinctly put it, ‘whether you succeed or not is irrelevant…making your unknown known is the important thing’.

Write the story, (or paint your nails, cook the meal, design the garden) from your embodied passion for your subject. Create without fear of what you’ll find.

Create without self-editing, or stopping yourself in your tracks, or blocking the flow. Go into the unknown, and be willing to face down what you find.

Writing prompt – Unfamiliar activities & the unknown

Undertake an activity that is unfamiliar, which makes you feel that you are going into the unknown. You might, for example: eat a new food, go for a walk without an end point in mind, or paint letting your hand rather than your head decide what manifests on the page. The scale of the activity is not as important as your embodied reaction to it. Notice the embodied signs of having gone into unfamiliar territory: a racing heart, vibration in the body, a surge of adrenalin and heat rising.

After you’ve finished the activity, sit down and write about it. What was the process like? Do any associations or memories arise? What are you left with as you reflect in tranquility?