by Deren Hansen
taking care not to conflate writers and prophets, one of the
fundamental ways writers can get ideas is by being willing to turn aside
and see something--even something incredibly ordinary--in a new light
or with new eyes.
Something happens to us as we morph
from children into adults: we move from a world of concrete and specific
things into a world of abstractions and classes. The process is
innocent enough. When a child points at the feathered creature hopping
across the lawn and asks, "What is that?", they want to know about the
specific one in front of them. But we answer, "Oh, that's a robin." In
doing so we give the child a word for a class of birds, of which the
specific one they see is only a representative. In time, we stop seeing
that one one bird and instead see a robin.
What, then is the technique for seeing something special where others don't?
Like the child, ask, "What is that one? How did that one come to be here and now?"
language is powerful because of its abstractions, generalizations, and
indirections. Most people use that power for their own purposes without
realizing the degree to which they are, in turn, controlled or at least
constrained by it. Writers, who regularly wrestle words to make meaning,
are among the best equipped to get out from under the oppression of the
abstractions and turn aside, like Moses, to "see this great sight."
I won't promise you a revelation, if you turn aside, but you're likely to see something special.
Deren Hansen is the author of the Dunlith Hill Writers Guides. This article is from Sustainable Creativity: How to Enjoy a Committed, Long-term Relationship with your Muse. Learn more at dunlithhill.com.