Tapping into the unconscious
A lot of my writing has been inspired by dreams. I dream about something during the night and it goes in the next day. Something that's come when the barriers are down. There's too much reason up here [taps forehead], you know. And when you're asleep, reason is off guard and the unconscious emotions can come up. Because art, I truly believe, art is a product of the total personality. And the total personality as we know is 90% unconscious.
But a writer does not write off the top of his head. If he does, it's not writing, it's not deep writing. It's just superficial. Just marks on paper. And you well know that nine tenths of the brain is inaccessible to conscious introspection. Only a psychiatrist can get it out. But in a way, when you're being a writer, you are being a psychiatrist.
I would say to kids [when I was teaching] 'curl up on the couch, adopt the foetal position, go back to your mother's womb!'. Go back, back, back and tap the unconscious. Be your own psychiatrist. Drag out what's deeply there.
And that's why I think childhood is, as I was saying to somebody earlier — it's a shame that so many people let their childhoods die, because childhood is where the big things are trapped. The big emotions. Children see things in a different way. They're more alive and alert.
Wordsworth once said: 'Shades of the prison house begin to close about the growing boy'. And how right he is: adults become trapped in the everyday, the conscious, the rational. So writing is a great psychiatric process, I think.
It's great, you know. A blank piece of paper. It's fantastic. It inspires me. A blank paper. There's a wonderful scene in [the film] '1984' where Winston goes into an antique shop and buys an old diary. Nobody's ever written in it. He opens it and the lines are creamy, blank.
You know that feeling you get when you look at the garden when there's been snowfall, or you see a field before you and there's not a single footprint on it. And you feel 'Oh! it would be sacrilege almost to walk on it'.
I often feel like that about a sheet of paper. But he [Winston] looks at this and actually what he writes on it is complete rubbish: 'went to the flicks last night, drank too much gin'. Oh, what a let-down, what an anti-climax — but what a wonderful image for the writer. The diary with its blank pages is an image of the challenge for the writer. You can write anything on it. It could be a work of genius. It can be 'Hamlet' or it can be Enid Blyton.
And I used to, sometimes in the classroom, as a little trick for younger pupils, I would hold up a book and say: 'I'm holding the greatest book in the world' and I'd open it, but it was blank. 'But it's blank' [they'd say]. Yeah, you can make that into the greatest book in the world by writing in it something that posterity will value.
So Winston's diary is a wonderful symbol, in the Orwell novel, of the challenge that is before the writer to write something that posterity will want to read and remember him by.