Linear Thinking

"Linear" © 2006 by Martin P. Szymczak


Golly! Two posts in one day? Will wonders never cease?

My posts here are automatically cross-posted to my LiveJournal account. Over there, one of my long-time friends very casually gave me “F Is for Fangs. I got bit in the leg” to give my subconscious a little help on the stanza currently troubling me.

Now, I had already thought of “Fangs” and rejected it. “There are way too many stories about vampires,” I thought to myself, then told my subconscious to just ignore “vampires and fangs” and go on.

I said as much to my commenter. She then said, “Oh, I never thought of vampires. I was just thinking Dragon → Egg → (baby dragon) Fangs . . .”

Well, duh. Even though that’s not something I can use because the Egg story that I want to write has nothing to do with the Dragon story that comes before it, I never saw the progression. It was staring me right in the face, too. Either me or my subconscious should have seen this.

Then, just as I was getting over that, she added one more comment. “You know what else has fangs? Snakes. :)”

Again, duh. You know, I’ve been a snake online for so long that you would think that would have been the first thing that occurred to me. But no, “fangs” to me implied only vampires.

This comes back to something Holly Lisle recently said in one of her excellent writing newsletters. She was talking about a technique for generating story ideas that she calls “Calling Down Lightning.” It’s when your conscious (left brain) says, “I need to write a story about <topic> of about <word count> words, and I need it by <deadline>.” The subconscious (right brain) hears this, cogitates on it, and starts tossing out concepts.

The conscious then either says, “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe . . .”, and the subconscious goes back to refine the idea or provide new ones.

It’s a pretty good personification of the process creative types go through when trying to generate ideas.

In that newsletter where she introduces the process to her readers, she tells a story of how it broke down for her. She needed a “paranormal romance” idea, but told her subconscious to avoid a certain topic because she already had a couple of other stories about that. Her subconscious went into a four-day sulk, refusing to give her anything at all to work with.

Because her conscious tried to limit her subconscious. Exactly what I did when I said, “F, but not ‘fangs’ because I don’t want to write a vampire story.” So my subconscious mind may have gone off in a huff and worked on something else just to spite me.

Or I’m overanalyzing and my shipment of ideas from Poughkeepsie simply hasn’t arrived this week.

I don’t know how I got so locked into “fangs = vampires,” but it clearly has caused me to miss a couple of good ideas. Which my commenter helped me see.

Thanks, Molly. :)

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