Monday, November 19, 2007

Ideas are like crystals

by Patricia

In The Right to Write, author Julia Cameron wrote that ideas are like crystals in the mind of an artist. Now, I'm not a chemist or a mathemetician so I can't give you all the details of how and why crystals form and the results that occur when they connect. Actually, I'm not sure if I can explain how and why ideas form and what happens when, like pieces of a puzzle, they begin to lock into place. All I know is that when I am writing a novel, scenes and snippets enter my mind, one after another. Getting them into a document in some form of logical order is sometimes a struggle. Occasionally, ideas surface, only to be discarded, trumped by ones that make more sense as part of the plot. One thing I have learned, though, is that the scenes that play over and over in my mind usually have some significant meaning and are meant to be included in the story.

One example of this occurred during the prewriting of the last book in the Kevin Kirk Chronicles series, The Final Farewell. (Prewriting includes all the time spent meditating on the story.) Two scenes played over and over in my mind and wouldn't go away. First, I kept seeing Kevin sitting on the bank of the Mississippi. Second, I saw Kevin at Fort Defiance, Ill., standing at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

I'm no psychologist so I can't claim to understand why these visions returned, over and over, and how I could know internally, instinctively, without knowing logically, why they were important to the story. It was as if they were the pole, the magnetic north my story compass was meant to point to.

The moment in the writing process did come, however, when I realized why these events were important.

I am, for lack of a more sophisticated term, a symbolic thinker. I'm sure that's why I am fascinated by parables in the scriptures and literary allusions. These two moments at the river are symbolic for Kevin. At the confluence, as he observes the two awesome, powerful rivers merging to make a whole, he realizes there are forces larger and more powerful in his life than he has been able to comprehend. On the riverbank, for the first time in his life he is keenly aware of the concept that, like a river, "time stops for no man." You either sink, swim, or sit on the bank and live the rest of your life afraid to ever make a move.

As I look back on the process of creating the story, I understand why these scenes are relevant to the decision Kevin must ultimately make in the story, how they are almost like tools that unlock a compartment of knowlege inside himself, helping him understand his own weakness and to have confidence in his faith. But at the time I was in the creative process, the scenes were snippets of time that, at the time, didn't appear to connect to the story at all.

The point of my rambling is this: Don't discount those recurring scenes, those odd bits of vision that keep popping up in your mind. Don't dismiss the snippets of action you daydream or visit over and over in your sleep.

Your brain may be trying to tell you something.


Rebecca Talley said...
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Rebecca Talley said...

Great post, Patricia. You're so right. Scenes that keep popping up probably need to be addressed, even if we don't understand why at the moment.