During another sleepless night last night (this morning) I heard an interview on Radio 5 live with the author Andrew Martin. (The Last Train to Scarborough) He and the interviewer were talking as they took in the scenery of the Bluebell Railway line in Sussex, whilst travelling on one of its trains. Whilst I found the whole interview quite absorbing, one remark of Andrew’s stuck in my mind. While discussing the construction of The Last Train To Scarborough he said that: “I got to know the inmates of the Bed & Breakfast very well.” (or words to that effect) Now although he had spent one night in a B&B in Scarbororough for real, to soak up the atmosphere, he wasn’t referring to this – but the characters he had created in the story.
I have been scribbling furiously on and off for the last few weeks and have to confess that I too have been starting to regard some of the created characters as living entities – a feeling I had tried to dissuade myself from because it struck me as yet another path to madness. I have found thoughts of actions and dialogue by these characters popping in and out of my consciousness, even when doing something totally different e.g. assembling stepper-motor driver boards.
Another thought had struck me earlier today, that even people who you would consider should know better can be guilty of making sweeping generalisations and stereotyping the actions of others. One eminent psychiatrist has said that ‘Writers sometimes don’t know where the next sentence is coming from, they just sit down and out it pops.’ (again: words to that effect)
This is plain dumb, and ignores completely accepted facts about cognition – and the progress of a person from beginner to expert. I’m not sure on what basis she makes this assertion, but it is probably accepting verbatim the answers given to her by her interviewee when asked ‘where does this stuff come from?’ It is disheartening to read these naive remarks by ‘eminent’ authorities of topics so serious as Bipolar Disorder, because if her reasoning falls over at what is really beginners stuff – what worth can we put on her other opinions?
Putting these two things together has made me realise that far from going mad, I am simply beginning to enter the ‘Unconscious Competence’ phase of composition.