Story seeds, Planning, and Intuition

It’s happening again. The bug, the itch, the fever: you know what I mean. An idea has taken root, a seed has been planted, a tiny sliver of green has sprouted. A writing project, another one. Am I mad? I must be, I’ve only hardly finished my last and here I am jotting down notes and juggling ideas for another one. What is wrong with me?

The same, I’d wager, that’s wrong with you. Writing, it gets under the skin, it’s in the blood, the DNA, whatever it is if it’s a part of you then – for better or for worse – it’s a part of you. There’s no doubt that being struck by a concept, a storyline, an intriguing character, and/or all of the above, carries with it a great deal of excitement. This time of early planning is probably the most enjoyable part of the whole process, really, for as we all know the distance from first idea to final book is a vast stretch, and along that path the horizon always seems to be shrinking further and further away. Little lies between here and there but pain and suffering; but oh the sweetness of these instants now. We dare to savor them.

Each of us will no doubt approach this “seeding” phase differently, depending both on the type of project in mind and on personal nuances related to writing and working habits. For myself I like to keep any initial planning fairly loose – doodles or sketches more than anything else – in order to give my preconscious mind, my intuitive brain, time to mull everything over. I avoid setting any deadlines, and most definitely any defined starting and ending dates, as experience has taught me that such are almost never met and tend to create far more stress than is either necessary or helpful. And after all, if this half daydreaming, half structural framing period is the most fun then why not let it stretch itself out? See where it goes, see where your heart takes it before it really takes it as the characters begin their interactive dances, their confrontations, collaborations, highs and lows and all that passes between.

Here once more is where I think intuition demonstrates its strength. The non-rational, non-actively engaged mind is able to process many millions more pieces of data than the rational mind is (this has to do partially with the confines of the working memory; there is quite a bit of very interesting research in this area in the fields of psychology and cognitive science), the only catch being that access to it is limited to what bubbles up into one’s awareness. That is, we cannot rationally choose what our non-rational (preconscious) mind will deliver to us, we simply take it once it has been given and then, if we are sufficiently thoughtful, chew it over a bit before deciding or acting on it. What this potentially means for the early stages of a writing project is that one allows one’s inner machinery to chug along on its own, only putting in those core kernels, those seeds, and then more or less waiting to see what happens. Although the preceding might be one of the least romantic ways of describing the creative process I think that for what it’s worth that essentially hits the nail on the head. On top of that, of course, is the added factor that the initial idea itself, the originary germination (to put it needlessly technically), is anyway almost certainly a product of that selfsame procedure. For me, for this time, it all started on my walk to catch the tram to work in the morning when I happened to spot something while traversing an overpass. What was it? Well, you’ll have to wait for the book to come out… Wink!

Our projects, they define us to a certain extent, certainly they give shape and meaning, and likely purpose, to our days. They come and go and come again, and there are times when we abandon them, just as there are times when we slog through no matter how hard the going gets. Whether or not a story is worth telling is probably something that will reveal itself as it is being told – at least to its writer, but then no one else may agree with said writer’s verdict. Nevertheless, when a seed is in the soil, when a plan is in the works, when the inner heart is engaged in doing what it does best, those are moments to cherish, and not just because they cannot last.


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