The creative process arrives as a strange sort of compulsion. In the later stages, I may view the work as a desire to communicate; but initially, it is experienced more as a need to ‘out’ something. This could be seen as a desire to express, although from the onset I generally work without an audience in mind. When writing fiction, my experience is, loosely, that I encourage images to form in my mind and hold them in accessible memory. I acknowledge that this is not accurate in terms of the actual process, but it stands as a description of what I experience: I live with these images, and they inform my present. I then make connections, often unconsciously, between aspects of these images and associated concepts and feelings. Certain mental images, pictures of scenes and ideas, seem to go together. In this way, an associated collection of sequences builds. Much of my decision-making relies on intuition. The image either feels right or it does not, and I am led by an emotional tone.
This vague description of the creative process parallels other accounts. The theatre director Peter Brook describes the early stages of a new project: ‘I listen to the patterns that arise in the deep level of the brain, when impulses become sounds and syllables — and before they shape themselves into recognisable words’. Nietzsche writes about the conception of Zarathustra:
The notion of revelation describes the condition quite simply; by which I mean that something profoundly convulsive and disturbing suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness. One hears — one does not seek; one takes — one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightening.
Jean Cocteau believes the creative process is:
the result of a profound indolence of our incapacity to put to work certain forces within us [...] we indulge ourselves like invalids who try to prolong dream and dread resuming contact with reality [...] when the work that makes itself in us and in spite of us demands to be born.
These accounts suggest that the creative process engages a different level of consciousness to ordinary awareness and the arrival of thoughts or images is experienced as coming from elsewhere. This different level of consciousness could refer to the psychoanalytic unconscious or the psychological and neuroscientific nonconscious. These two notions of the structure of the psyche coalesce around observations that individuals are influenced by factors of which they are not fully conscious.