There was a time when the world thought that inspiration came from above. It arrived rather like those rays of sunlight in William Blake engravings. Touched your head and caused works of genius emerge. There are still hoards out there today who think that this is the way great things happen. Beethoven’s Fifth, Hamlet, Fern Hill, Good Vibrations. Went out one day for a walk, came home, sat before the keyboard and there the work was. Brilliance effortlessly emerging, a gift from god.
In a way, of course, this is how it happens. Genius flows. But to make it so the artist needs to have studied the work of others, learned the basics, practised endlessly, worked out how to identify crap and become willing, no matter how much effort has been expended, to throw things that don’t sound right away. Most of all, the creative individual needs to know how to be in the right place at the right time. Where magic operates. Where inspiration can be encouraged to spark. Where the stuff of art can be made real.
We’ve a place like that in Wales. For writers anyway. Tŷ Newydd, the writers’ centre, set just back from the coast in Gwynedd. A great white house overlooking the sea. A place where the ley lines of creativity intersect and where great works are born.
At Tŷ Newydd the ambitious open-minded spend a week in the company of a pair of experienced authors. There’s an element of teaching, explaining, readings, criticism and the passing on of technique, form and style. There’s a lot of inspiration and plenty of opportunity to try things out. There’s also a mid-week visit from a guest reader, just to brighten things. You are there with your fellow writers, eighteen of you maybe, accommodated in new en-suite rooms, with access to an unrivalled library, computers, healthy food and even healthier air. You get a chance to strut your own stuff, if you want to. You can talk to the tutors about your work, explain what you want to do and where things are right now. They’ll help you plan the future.
I’ll be up there at the start of November. My course, managed in tandem with that great Aberystwyth poet Tiffany Atkinson, is called Poetry from Nowhere. Is this possible? When there are no ideas in the mind, not the faintest touch of inspiration and the rain blows outside. What do you do? This week will explain. There’s a guarantee that you’ll go home with something new and with a head full of brightness that wasn’t there when you arrived.
Guest reader is Ira Lightman, fresh from Radio Three and full of unimaginable spark. Interested? Check www.tynewydd.org or call 01766 522811. Dates are November 8th to 13th 2010.
An earlier version of this post appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail. #169