The planned, the surprising and the serendipitous: Exploring the creative writing process
Australasian Association of Writing Programs
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications
This paper arises out of my experience of working on a Creative Writing MA, both as a way to reconnect with a personal practice of creative writing and as a means of investigating my creative writing process. The process is a complex one and it is difficult to understand and explain how A links to B as the creative product develops. For the example examined here, I assigned the name Baker to a key character established early in the writing process. That surname was chosen for an older, authoritarian, character, and I hoped it would resonate a nononsense, old-fashioned, almost medieval time of guilds, expertise and authority, at odds with the more fluid and self-regulating society of today. Some three years and 70,000 fiction words later, the naming of this character as Baker unexpectedly becomes a plot point linked to an indistinct photograph from the 1940s which shows thirteen children. Is the lead child the Baker character or not? Is the contemporaneous title of the photograph ‘Bakers Dozen’, no apostrophe, an acknowledgment that Baker is the leader, or is it a reference to the fact that there are thirteen children in the photograph? These questions raise complex issues about elements of the creative writing process that are planned, compared with elements that are unexpected and serendipitous. Even as I wrote about a display of historic photographs, and realised I was visualising the ‘Bakers Dozen’ photograph, I recognised and celebrated the affirming nature of such synergies in the writing process. It is this capacity to surprise even the writer at the point of authoring the written product that gives the creative writing process some of its visceral power.