Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Write On Wednesday - Finding Figment

Do any of you remember "Journey into the Imagination," one of the original attractions at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World? There's a little purple dragon called "Figment," who pops up all over the place as you're riding along in your automated vehicle. Through the power of the imagination, he becomes an astronaut, a mountain climber, even the Mona Lisa. Of course, the whole idea is that, if you let your imagination guide you, there is no end to the possibilities that await.

Those figments of the imagination are particularly vital to writers, who are always on the lookout for the next great idea. In her classic book, Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande talks about the "writer's coma," those times in our lives when we feel a desperate need for solitude and detachment from the hustle and bustle of life. At those times, she writes, it may seem as if our mind's are "barren," when in actuality, "something is at work," and will later make itself known in a flash of insight. She also says we can learn to "induce at will" this "artistic level of unconsciousness" where the "artist's magic" lies buried. It is our unconscious that sees the world around us on a different level - it's the place where all our impressions and experiences mingle and simmer in a savory broth of ideas, waiting for something to spark the imagination and allow the mixture to bubble up into our conscious mind.

I don't know about you, but my "figments" always seem to appear when I'm doing something totally unrelated to writing - like walking the dogs, vacuuming the floor, standing in line at the grocery, or even driving (which is the most frustrating of all, because there's no way to write it down!) I'm always certain I'll remember such a great thought, or phrase, or idea for a poem or post, but most times it escapes me before I have the opportunity to write it down. I don't always have a notebook handy (although I know every writer worth her salt is supposed to carry one), and even if I did, there are some situations where it's impossible to drop everything and jot it down.

According to Brande, it's quite normal for our "genius" to assert itself when we're involved in monotonous, repetitive tasks. In fact, she advises us to play around with such tasks until we find the one that's most receptive to calling forth our unconscious. Every writer, she says, has learned to put herself into a state of "light hypnosis," where the attention is "just barely held" by the activity at hand, but far beneath the surface level of her mind, a story is being "fused and welded together."

So tell me, how do you capture the figments of your imagination?



Blogger deirdre said...

I also have great writing thoughts while I'm driving, or in the shower. They feel like conversations with my soul. In my writing group we often begin with a guided meditation - it moves the busy mind to a quieter place and allows the writer's mind to speak. It's an effective tool.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always have many many things going on in my head at the same time. It could be several stories simultaneously developing in my mind. Not to mention musical thoughts, arrangements, compositions, art pieces to create, hikes I want to take or have taken, working out... Mental images of it all play about. I can't really turn it off...
To keep from going insane I have to keep my mind (Like everything else) very organized. Thus, I have several stories going on...I read several books at a time without confusion...
All through reading, through creating through performing through regular daily tasks my imagination clamors at me.
This is a difficult question for me to answer...

Blogger Star said...

Many of my writing inspirtation comes when I'm out in nature, either taking a walk or on one of my photo safaris. Sometimes it comes to nothing, sometimes it practically writes itself, and sometimes it seems to be nothing but sparks something else.

Blogger Tammy said...

My best stuff comes to me as I lay in the dark trying to drift off to sleep. Problem is that sometimes I can't remember them the next day. LOL xxoo

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried for years to generate the kind of flow you describe. One of the things that helps me is finding a kind of mental rhythm for the writing I’m doing. I may not know the words; in fact, I rarely do at the outset. But if I listen, I can hear the pattern, the cadence, the rise and fall of sentences and phrases within a sentence. Once I am inside that rhythm, images present themselves, and then, finally, the words themselves fall into place.

Sometimes listening to actual music helps the process; at other times, I need absolute silence in order to “hear my own mind.”

This is usually the way I get the first ideas out, the rough draft. I have a more objective, editorial mindset which I use to polish and revise. However, in the end product, if I’ve done my best work, that initial lyrical quality is still present and recognizable, if only to me.

I’m not sure if that was helpful or even if I described it in such a way that it made sense. Obviously it doesn’t always make sense to me, or I’d have a better command over it! It’s a fascinating topic, though!


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