Write When It's Ripe
A stupid mistake I make when writing
A stupid mistake I make when writing: I get a good idea but don’t start writing straight away – thinking I will come back to this later at a better time, but never do.
Or when I do write something straight away, it’s often just a few scribbled notes, not formulated in complete sentences, all out of context and in a random order, and so impossible for me to get into that flow where:
one word chased another word
flowing from my mouth,
one deed chased another deed
flowing from my hands
Havamal 141, Poetic Edda (transl. Crawford)
The reason to start writing straight away isn’t because you simply want to avoid forgetting your idea, although that is another side effect. The reason is you need to begin a writing PROCESS - a protracted action with an aim - which creates the conditions necessary to unfold an implicit whole thought into explicit sequential words.
This is why it’s important to begin writing as soon as you have the idea and not wait until you feel you are ready. It is not the phrases and explicit thoughts in your head that need written down. It’s the WHOLE thought that is ripe and ready now, which needs unfolded now.
Although you can summon up the phrases and words in your mind at a later time, you cannot summon up the complete thought again because it is embedded in a specific time and place in your life, in the universe as a whole, and was dependent on a unique chain of events and conditions leading up to that insight, that idea that just “popped” into your mind from “nowhere.”
By the time the fruit of a whole thought reaches up into your conscious mind – as a few words or images – it’s telling you that it is ripe and ready to eat. If you don’t begin the writing process now the branch withers.
What, in ill thoughts again? Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all: come on.
– Shakespeare, King Lear
If you want to get mystical you can say that the universe was configured in a unique way at the moment the implicit thought started to become explicit in words, and everything had to be exactly how it was then, for you to have that exact thought. Change one thing and you change everything.
So what arrogance to think you can just summon up the same few words or images later as if “you” chose that thought when it appeared in the first place. And if you had chosen this thought, it was already known to you on some level, so wasn’t new or interesting enough for you to want to write about in the first place!
A whole complete thought is an intuition-feeling, unconscious, implicit, and appears as a destiny not a choice. But it must be unfolded and made conscious and explicit in words. Thoughts are whole, but words are sequential.
The whole thought wants to come into the world through you. It needs your words. Don’t kill it at birth because you want to wait until the time is right. The time will never be more right than the time the thought has just broken through into your conscious mind and has started to unfold itself in words.
Einstein and some mathematicians have said they see intuition-images first, and only after the inner certainty of truth did they look for the equations to prove it later. Making the implicit explicit. Unfolding a living feeling-intuition into ‘dead’ words and symbols.
And yes, I did write this essay down as soon as it emerged. I’d had similar intuitions before and never acted on them, but it re-appeared full and fresh and ripe today, and although tired and dehydrated and wanting to go to bed I pulled out the laptop and wrote as fast as I could. The first draft is a bit rough and needs editing but the fruit is here – it just needs washed and peeled, and now you’re eating it.
The ripe fruit is asking to fall and spread its seeds on the ground. It is asking to be picked and eaten and its seeds spread through humans and animals. But try to eat the fruit too early or too soon and you don’t get more or less fruit (quantity) – what you get instead is a different and worse fruit (quality).