Monday, March 26, 2012

The Art of Connecting Thoughts

While reading through a book titled 8000 You Should Know yesterday I came across this:

“Dhows are wooden Arab boats that have been used in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean for thousands of years. In the past dhows were made, not by nailing planks of wood together, but by sewing them with coconut fibre. Dhow builders rarely work from plans. They judge entirely by eye and experience. Dhows traditionally had lateen sails—triangular sails in line with the boat. This allows them to sail almost into the wind.” (bold mine)

When I put the book down bottle rockets went off in my brain. My synapses danced. Do you see it? Well, of course not because I haven’t made the connection for you yet. But I saw it sure as the sun rising in the sky reminding us of a new day.

Dhow builders epitomize the methods of a pantser.

They sew the boat together. They don’t nail it together, using forceful step by step plot techniques to guide them. They sew. Then get this…they rarely work from plans (wow, are the plotters out there about ready to faint now, or what?). Here’s the kicker, dhow builders trust their eye and their experience to get them through the process. And dhows have been around for “thousands of years.”

So what’s the takeaway other than my mind tends to be on steroids when it comes to drawing parallels? As writers, when we see something like this it’s worth it not to ignore it. Take notes. Craft an analogy that makes sense for the reader. Truncate the details. Test it. Some will work, some won’t. That’s what rough drafts are all about—freeing the mind to step out of its comfort zone.

Opening your mind to see (really see) connections is one of the best ways to remedy clichés from cropping up in your work.

To quote a well-known song from the 90s, “Free your mind and the rest will follow…”

Do you enjoy when your brain synergizes unique ideas and concepts? 
What keeps you from attempting analogies in your work?

*photo by flickr


  1. Hmm...this is good to think about about. I don't think I "free my mind" enough in my writing. I'm not sure why. :(

  2. As an enthusiastic plotter, I am about ready to faint! lol Just kidding, I love the analogy and the creativity it inspires.

    Honestly, I think the number one thing that keeps me from attempting analogies is fear that my creativity won't be good enough. Or that other people won't get it.

    But it's time to step out--as always, thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I love making connections when I read, especially classic literature. I love to find the hidden meanings and discover deeper metaphors. I try to incorporate these in my writing, but they're really hard!

    And yes, this plotter is cringing at the thought of writing a whole novel without a solid step-by-step plan! :D

  4. Yes! I love it when zap, something connects in my mind...not saying it happens often...hehehe...but I love it when it does.

    I'm with Lindsay...I'm a plotter, so I'd have a hard time without a roadmap!

  5. I guess the biggest thing from attempting to make analogies in my writing is worrying that they'll be too cliched and not deep enough.

  6. I love that "free your mind" first draft! Why were you reading that book? Just curious.

  7. As a panster, this gives me some relief. "Thousands of years," is long enough for me to exhale some and let my work evolve in its own way.

    I tend to write what I know, and sometimes that can threaten to keep me in a box. I'm learning to venture:)

  8. I love this post. I'm a panster. I love the rough draft. I do test ideas, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

    To me, it's like a blank canvas. I have an idea, and I let the words flow. It comes in waves. A few of my novels have gone off in directions that I did not anticipate...making the story better than before.

  9. Sometimes I get a little carried away....and my editor has to say, "Huh-uh. Not working."

    But they're fun to try!

  10. Just about all my blog posts draw analogies between the visual and the blog message. Actually I always enjoy those visual analogies. Looking at life through the lens has inspired my writing in so many ways.

  11. I like this! I need to ponder a bit in light of the WIP. Thanks, Wendy, for great food for thought.

  12. Is that boat in the picture an actual dhow? It's gorgeous. I love the parallel, Wendy. (And yes, my mind tends to be on steroids when drawing parallels too.) :)

  13. Wendy:
    I have a mental picture of where I want my story to go. Is that the way of a pantser or a plotter or am I a hybrid?

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  15. "That’s what rough drafts are all about—freeing the mind to step out of its comfort zone." I love that comment! It reminds me a bit of Natalie Goldberg's rules of writing practice:

    1. Keep your hand moving.

    2. Don't cross out.

    3. Don't worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar.

    4. Lose control.

    5. Don't think. Don't get logical.

    6. You are free to write the worst junk in America.

    7. Go for the jugular.

  16. I live for synergy! As somebody who wings it w/ writing, I'll tell you something I've learned: even if I don't map out the plot, I must have a story problem that everything is working toward! It saves years of agony.

  17. Ooh, I like this and I like analogies! But even more, I like metaphors. *grin*

  18. Great post! I had to laugh at Linda Hoye's list.

    6. You are free to write the worst junk in America.

    My list has that too. Only mine reads, 'You are free to write the worst junk in Australia.'

    I guess we're all over the place! :)

  19. I like this idea, Wendy! I find that I have the most trouble with writing analogies when I'm trying the hardest to write them, ironically enough. Mine seem to come much more easily when I let the story do its thing, and stay aware of notes of depth I could cultivate for a larger arc throughout the story.

    But sometimes it's so difficult not to overthink things! That's why I try to do basic planning, but then write as a pantster most of the time... otherwise, I think my perfectionism closes me off to opportunities.

    And as Sarah said, what a pretty boat picture! :)

  20. How cool is that dhow example? I find it fascinating b/c the Vikings actually built their uber-fantastic ships by eye, as well. SO well that when people try to build them by PLANS these days, they're generally always off somehow.

    I'm more of a loose-plot pantser...I sketch the chapters where the climactic scenes hit, then write into them, if that makes sense. That way I get to know my characters as I go.

    Great example!

  21. As a semi pantsa I love freedom
    I love finding unique ways to write things.
    But in saying that some feedback from ABNA this year was that my mixed metaphors didn't work.... I'm hoping that is just one opinion.... Others have liked my quirkiness

  22. Interesting thought here -- I have a combo approach and, by chance, just posted it on my blog a couple days ago. It's called the 9 box method and you don't have to know all your facts going in - you just do one box at a time. Have you heard of it?

  23. Running around. Me = headless chicken again. Some quick responses (so wish I had time for more)...

    Linda, love Goldberg's list! Heather, you summarized me to a T (loose-plot pantser). I'm not a belt wearing woman. ;)

    Tess, need to check out your 9 box method. Always curious about methods like that.

    Love these comments, all. Love that you're all freeing your minds and are willing to try connecting thoughts. It's what the rough drafts are all about, right? ;)

    ~ Wendy

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