Open Your Mind

Open up your mind to the possibility that 1 + 1 can equal 48, a Mercedes Benz, an apple pie, a blue horse.

DP Challenge – find the 3rd line on page 82 of the closest book at hand and write your blog post based on that line – the above line comes from, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg.

(I know, I know – you’re asking yourselves – was that book really the closest to hand? Honestly – I was printing up yet another hardcopy of the never-ending story for yet another round of final edits and reading blog posts while I waited and this book was lying right on the desk next to me when I read the DP Challenge.)

So, what on earth does that sentence, in all its glorious isolation, mean to me?

For a writer, it could mean that a good story is a story with a twist. The thing that will really grab a reader is the unexpected – the blue horse when it seemed as though the author was going to pull out the same old same old. And this seems to be true for all areas of writing from big things like plot to little things like a common metaphor or analogy – give it a twist and you get people’s attention.

But wait – another part of my thought process has just kicked in here – what about the other side of this equation? What about the times our reader desperately needs 1 + 1 to equal 2 – go to hell with the Mercedes Benz and apples. The reader needs to believe in some constants in the worlds we writers create – that there are things to connect with and that these important touch points aren’t going to be blown off the map. What about that? Don’t we owe our readers that, too?

OK – maybe it’s like this . . . As writers we strive for what I used to understand, in another life, as internal consistency. (I was once a skilled university researcher – cue the band and the ticker tape parade, please.) We give that important twist when we highlight the fact that life is complicated. There are no easy answers, nothing lasts forever, and change is inevitable. The only thing you can count on is that just around the corner life is going to bite you in the butt.

The constancy that the reader needs – almost as much as they need that important twist – is captured in the fact that the characters we have created, the situations we placed them in and the various ways they react, are all things the reader can identify with – we allow the readers that precious aha moment when they say to themselves – right, I see how that could be.

So, fellow writers bring on the twist – your own version of a Mercedes Benz, an apple pie and those good old blue horses – just leave the reader knowing that in the world you created, there is some underlying 1 + 1 equals 2 consistencies to count on.

I present this picture of the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by Frank Gehry. It seems to me that the reality of this building gracing the street of downtown LA represents a huge twist of reality and yet it is there – real – consistent with some internal rules of architecture and building that defy all logic