When the Muse Calls: Richard Aslan

Richard Aslan

Freelance Writer, Editor, and Project Maker
www.miniaturelion.co.uk 

My creative process begins with a need. This need might come from outside, or it might be internal. As a writer and a performance maker, my practice is diverse, and therefore the needs that stimulate it and the responses to them are also diverse. When writing, the need is most often an external one as I most often write to commission. I will receive a simple brief from my editors, and then it is largely up to me to discover a direction that the piece wants to go in.

My first step is to try and get some tangible sense of the ‘place’ involved, whether it is a real geographical location, or a place within an idea. I do this through watching videos, reading, talking to people, asking questions on social media, looking at photos. It is very important for me to try and create an experience for the reader that involves the body at large, and not just ideation and concept. If I have been to the place in question (or the ‘place’ in question) in my own body, then this is much easier. But if I haven’t, then I attempt to travel there virtually. I look for details, the people there, something that a child might remember perhaps, you know, like the kind of thing you hear from a child who visited the Niagara Falls; ‘It was loud and a seagull ate my sandwich.’

The world is not made up of grand narratives, so even in expressing a narrative that is grand, I think we have to create and transmit the detail. Actual text production is hard for me. The hardest part. I usually just cut and paste, write painful sentences that take half a day, drop things in, produce terrible clichés and embarrassing beginnings and endings. This process can take a while and feel a bit desperate, but eventually, I get to a version of the text I call ‘in shape’. It’s bad and awful and things, but all the information is in there, and there will be little precious juxtapositions of words that might even make it to the final cut.

With a sigh of relief, I leave the production phase and head into the editing phase. I love editing. I edit over and over and over and over again. My method is to press return a few times so I knock the text down the page, and then rewrite it a few lines above. I find this enables me to really feel the flow of the language each time in my hands as well as in my eyes and in my brain. I will do it a minimum of… five times? Sometimes many, many more.

I will try to work on one text at a time so it gets its own internal tensions, its own culture, if you like. I will shave and plump, tweak and squeeze down to word count. I take great pride in getting a piece that should be 1,000 words to be exactly 1,000 words, sometimes, when I need to feel proud. My partner reads my text and highlights ‘the crap bits’ in yellow. He’s good at it. Then I edit the yellow bits, maybe edit it a couple hundred more times then…! Suddenly, the text will tell me it is finished. Often with no warning. It is a feeling like getting the key to turn a dodgy lock. Ah! A sigh and everything rolls, as one. Clunk, and slide. I like everything I write when it gets to this point. It’s like we have history by then, me and the text. I like some things a lot. I like the things best of all that I can actually see in my head, and feel under my fingertips, noticing things I hadn’t noticed before, even though I know I invented them. There is a great word in German: Kopfkino – literally ‘head cinema’. That goes halfway. I’m aiming for a Kopf-und-KörperKino.

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