Monday, August 24, 2009

Fractal Thinking: The Writer’s Thought Process


Do you see something of interest in the world around you and replicate it in your imagination so that you can analyze it? If so, don’t worry. You’re probably just a writer at heart—or maybe a mathematician. The other day I was waiting for the morning train, drinking coffee, finishing a chapter of John Gardner’s book The Art of Fiction and listening to a new commuting buddy talk about her interest in literature. As my new associate was talking, I was thinking how much she reminded me of a writing friend and mentor. Then I began musing how much she might be like my other friend or different, about her perspective on life, her longtime interest in literature and how that might inform her thoughts—and the list goes on. Everyone multitasks and multi-thinks, but writers tend to observe something, replicate it in their imaginations and analyze it all in rapid succession. It reminded me of an episode of Nova on fractals, irregular geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is a smaller, albeit uneven copy of the whole. Writers think like this all the time but in a certain context—as fodder for their work. Understanding events, people and human nature, and assimilating this understanding for later use, are part of a continual and often subconscious effort. It revives the argument for always carrying paper and a pen, since electronic stuff doesn’t always accommodate the “jot” of jotting things down. You never know when some revelation might enrich a story or character. It really is all fodder ...

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1 comment:

Joanne said...

Hi Adele,
Great post, as writers we're always working in one way or another, aren't we? Observing, processing, contemplating ... I found you through the CAPA newsletter and enjoyed browsing here!