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Writing in your head

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Sometimes we don’t have pen and paper, or access to a computer, and during those times we panic. As if our bright ideas are like pet goldfish brought back from a fair – we have to put those ideas in their proper place or fear losing them.

But consider the renowned Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He had no access to pen and paper for SIX years while interred in a Siberian prison camp and he was granted no privileges.To have attempted to scrawl anything in secret would have resulted in more beatings and torture. Grim conditions for any human being, yet alone a writer.

What did he do? Dostoyevsky wrote in his head. He composed and memorised entire novels and essays without writing them down. In 1857 he was allowed to publish some of his work while still serving his sentence, and after his release he churned out novel after novel. You may know some of them: Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot….

There is no need for the prison camp treatment, but we are all in our individual wall-less prisons. Confined by day jobs, family and social obligations. No time for writing. You don’t have to compose your magnum opus while on the bus every morning, but writing-in-the-head works very well for smaller tasks, such as opening lines, short stories and character sketches. Don’t be scared of forgetting anything. I promise you that when an idea grabs you during one of these head-writing sessions, it will be all-consuming.

Related to crime and punishment…(not the novel)

Currently seeking submissions for KL Noir: Blue, the third installment of KL Noir, an anthology of crime stories set in Kuala Lumpur:

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