Writing as Immersion. On Keats’ Negative Capability and Related Matters
by Mike Johnson
Why do I write fiction? I don’t know. It may be because identity itself is a fiction, and so fiction becomes and endless exploration of identity, or even creation of that identity.
Consider this quote:
Ted Hughes is suggesting that we have to leave behind who we are, or think we are, to become that which we create. Keats called this the ‘negative capability’, that ability of a writer to efface themselves in the creation of their characters and their worlds. Keats cited Shakespeare as a prime example. Famously, Shakespeare cannot be located in any particular character; Shakespeare is everywhere and nowhere in the text. It all breaks down to multiple and contending points of view.
Our identities are far less fixed, and much more malleable than we ever suspected. Particularly fluid is the relationship between memory and the imagination. ‘Memory is Mother of the Imagination,’ says Coleridge, but it may go deeper than that. They may be so inextricably intertwined that there’s no telling one from the other.
So, to return to the Ted Hughes quote, the practical advice that arises from this is to write by intensely visualising whatever happening on the page. See it and hear it and smell it and taste it. Then the ‘words look after themselves.’ Sound wonderful doesn’t it?
For related posts see:
And here is a great interview (with the Arab Poet Adonis) which touches in on the above, and much more.