Jul 29
THE IDLE MIND IS THE WRITER’S WORKSHOP by webmaster  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Jul 29, 2005

By Vince Ragay

The writer initiates the process of filmmaking. With a few exceptions (reality shows and plot-less experimental movies), this is so. Every movie ever made began with a person who had a storyline or a complete story. And every story came from a person equipped with a restless mind and an equally restless pen. Sometimes though, the writer encounters the proverbial mental block that strikes the death knell to the creative process. It is at those moments of distraction from their main goal when writers get waylaid by their own frailty.

Some have even used such diversions into a goad for enhancing their craft. Take for instance Edgar Allan Poe. It is said that he wrote only under the influence of alcohol. Like many who need external stimulus to be creative, he fed his mind with an inducing chemical which invariably caused his internal muse to dance. (Or perhaps, he was simply an alcoholic who also wrote macabre stories so well.) Others may simply need peace and quiet or the soft strains of classical music to write.

Nothing comes from nothing. To say that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop is like saying that the busy mind is God’s laboratory. In truth, it is when we empty our minds of the world’s empty pursuits that sublime thoughts can truly fill our minds. On the other hand, all the crass and debasing movies have arisen from the hearts of those who found the need to shock our minds with all the evil and corruption that the devil alone is capable of inspiring. The mind is rarely idle and when it is, it may not be functioning normally.

Still, in passing, we can say that the idle mind is the writer’s workshop. For good or for ill, idleness (for a writer, the opposite of not writing) must be avoided. Sloth is after all one of the so-called seven cardinal sins. For the apt writer especially, a vacuum produces a rush of ideas. A calm precedes a storm. And how we ultimately deal with our idleness depends on our individual needs. A writer may thus pen a script based on the spoken or unspoken standards within a society. If the times (or the producers) call for bold movies, one writes accordingly. If horror movies are making money, join the parade. If artistic expression compels a person, nothing else will matter.

And then there are also those who just need to fill their time in order to avoid being idle. Not a positive motivation, but many writers – especially the independent ones — do find this need. (Not doing so makes them feel empty and useless.) For not all the time do writers find themselves carried by wings of inspiration. Rarely do they feel that the pen moves effortlessly as if it had a mind of its own.

Yes, there are cases when even sleep brings a finished story to the prepared mind. In this case, idleness is certainly out of the question. Such treasures come out of the overflow of one’s mind. And this does not arise from a desire to avoid idleness but a natural, driving inclination to live a productive life. Oh, if only we could all become like those wellsprings of creativity! We can almost call them not story writers but rivers of thoughts that cannot avoid but flow.

But then — not all rivers carry clean water. The ocean of moviegoers includes millions of individuals who are equally challenged to fill their times as well as their minds with good or bad stories. (How many Filipinos go to movies to educate themselves?) This whole process – no, this whole industry – of mind-filling determines what kind of people or nation we are. Ultimately, the power to generate change through a mass of humans who lead meaningful lives rests in the hands of writers who must first decide how to use their minds.

A writer then may have power that is as destructive as a sub-oceanic earthquake capable of drowning people thousands of kilometers away. Or power that is as compassionate as light which nurtures all living things.