The cognitive power of the human mind never fails to astonish and bewilder. We can subsume mere words upon a page into a vivid and firmly ensconcing ‘Otherworld’ that delights and enchants the wakeful consciousness utterly. We can peer through small symbols inscribed in ink upon recycled tree-pulp and see an entirely different world than the one we know and recognise as reality.
We can even transcend conscious awareness of the bounds of our constructed idea of the living world around us, finding the absurdity and comic, the tragic and the heroic, the epic expanse and the infinitely detailed in a wondrous synergy of ideas and emotive delineations. Such is the magnificent grandeur and forceful energy of literature.
Atmosphere is a precarious and vital element in building and sustaining an ‘Otherworld’ that will engage the imagination commensurately and retain this deep interest. All writers have their various techniques and stratagems for cultivating and crafting this atmosphere; both tone and content are remarkably valuable for shaping the way a reader might access and connect with a particular scene or chapter. But how does the author find this atmosphere and channel it? Does it come from within, or without; a product of introspection and pure creativity, or is it malleable, shaped and influenced by external stimuli?
For my part, the most rewarding scenes and creations are wholly drawn from my imagination, much of it from dreams and nightmares experienced in the long watches of the night, or from peripatetic meditation and contemplation in the early hours before dawn breaks. That said, when it comes to capturing these scenes and images from my mind, I often draw on music to complement the task of writing. The style of music that informs my writing mood can, at times, actually steer me into a completely different scene or delineation than that I’d originally envisioned; the external tone and atmosphere of my writing soundtrack can imbue further inspiration and tonal consistency.
Of course, the ‘Otherworld’ need not be indirectly shaped or influenced by music alone. Impressive and captivating visual stimuli, particularly the natural environment, I find compelling; some of my favourite scenes have sprouted as loosely defined ideas that a wander through the woods or a quiet pre-dawn stroll along bluffs that tower above the ocean helped to further refine and frame to a most satisfactory and enjoyable state.
There is a palpable energy, almost magical, to such quiet places and secret spaces of the soul that only solitude, at a remove from all the noise and overwrought distractions of the modern world, can propagate – and it is when I am surrounded by this atmosphere that I do my best work, and that my imagination races furiously to all manner of colourful and creative notions.