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…”
*photo by flickr