Michael Ashcroft

February 22, 2021 12:26

Where do words come from when writing?

There’s something really peculiar about writing, which is that I have no idea where the words actually come from. Yes, even these ones. These ones too.

As I’m writing, I don’t find myself consciously crafting ideas or sentence fragments. Instead, different options sort of just ‘show up’ in my awareness, I catch them and then I write them down. Once written down I seem to contrast the words against an internal felt sense, a sort of “how close is this to what you meant?” This process iterates until I have a finished draft in front of me.

I know what the other kind of writing is like, where each word is a painful, conscious slog. It’s like the difference between ‘overtaking’ and ‘mirror, signal, turn the steering wheel, change gear, accelerate, mirror, signal the other way, turn the steering wheel, stop signalling, slow down a bit.’

That second part was laborious wasn’t it? Exactly. That’s what it’s like to write when I’m not able to access this felt sense, which is usually when I’m forced to write about something I don’t intrinsically want to write about.

I use the term ‘felt sense’ intentionally, because of course I am referring to Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing , the self-inquiry method that gets one ‘conversing’ regularly with this internal felt sense. It very quickly becomes clear that there is a wisdom in the body that knows things outside of conscious awareness. Exploring the felt sense is something like “huh, now that I have realised what the felt sense was telling me, I sort of knew it, but I am surprised I hadn’t really seen it before. It now seems like new options are available to me.”

But this isn’t the time to talk about Gendlin. Instead I wanted to write down somewhere that yes, I do use the felt sense when I write. More than that, I think my writing is infinitely superior when I tap into the felt sense and allow 'it' (me? other me?) to take the reins. And even more than that, I suspect this approach is teachable. 

I might play with this with my Write of Passage writing group. I’ll need to show them the felt sense and I’ll probably need to make the metaphors and language a little more accessible, but fundamentally it’s the same thing: “how to write using the felt sense”.

But diverging back to the more woo end of things… who is it that writes, if not ‘me’? 

And as I write that, my felt sense smiles. Wild.


I publish a newsletter called Thinking Out Loud, which chronicles my journey as an online maker of things, but it's also is where I talk about whatever I'm interested in at the time.​ There are about 1500 of us now, come play!