you only discover what you have to say in the doing of it. Saunders Lewis, the Welsh poet, used to quote somebody saying – a child saying – ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?’ and I have always resonated rather with that. And that means that for me in writing even a straight forward prose essay or a short book or a lecture, there is that awkward moment when, if you like, the engine is turning over a bit and you are wondering exactly at what point you are going to discover what the argument is. . . . Writing isn’t translating something in here onto the page. Writing is an act. . . . it is an action of self-discovery and an action of trying to put something into being . . .That certainly resonates with me. In my experience, no matter how carefully I try to outline a story or an article or a lecture, there is something about the process of turning the outline into polished English that surprises. Only when the words stare back at me from the page (or the computer screen) do I really know what I think.
20 October 2010
Writing as self-discovery
Some interesting words from Rowan Williams speaking at Heffers Bookshop in Cambridge a couple of years ago: