My list of requirements for creativity begins with motivation and courage… My second requirement is extensive experience and apprenticeship… the next requirement [is] insight into the workings of the self and into the workings of other minds… Being able to know how your own mind works and how other minds work is an underlying prerequisite for creating great art. Antonio Damasio, ‘Some Notes on Brain, Imagination and Creativity’, 2001, p. 64. It is commonly said that in order to be able to drive a car well we have to stop thinking about it. If we focus too much on the vehicle and how we’re operating it – how the gears work or which pedal to press when – we’re likely to end up in a ditch. The process has to become automatic. Somehow, and sooner rather than later, we have to reach the stage in which we’re no longer consciously concerned about where we put our feet or how to manoeuvre a narrow gap. To drive smoothly and efficiently, we have to lose our self-consciousness and become one with the car. Writing, at its best, is like that too. If we focus too hard on what we want to say and how we want to say it, the page or the screen may remain stubbornly blank, or words may appear but refuse to come alive or convey what we want them to. Only when we stop trying and become absorbed in the work – when we lose ourselves in the writing – does the process begin in earnest.
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