Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Your Silent Partner

By the way, I’m giving Blogger for Word a try, so if this post comes out scrambled, you’ll know why…

I finished reading Storyteller, Kate Wilhelm’s book on Clarion, last night.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a great book, especially for people who are dreaming of actually attending Clarion one day.  The book is not just about Clarion, however.  One of the more interesting discussions was about what Kate calls her “silent partner,” or “SP.”  This is essentially your subconscious, but she regards it as a non-verbal file clerk who keeps track of all of your experiences for you.  The interesting thing is that your SP can’t communicate with you directly, nor can you communicate with it directly.  Instead, the SP offers up memories and ideas, based on your past experiences, and you have the option to accept the idea or reject it.  If you accept it, the SP will eventually offer more ideas like that one.  If you reject it by ignoring it, the SP will eventually stop offering ideas of that type.  This is the same effect as “programming” yourself into a certain habit.  For example, you may program yourself to write every day from 7 to 9 AM.  Once you have strongly reinforced that habit, you’ll start to feel uncomfortable if you miss a day.  That, says Kate, is your SP sending you messages.  If you ignore the messages, the messages will get stronger for a while, but eventually the SP will stop sending them and you’ll be out of the habit.

This applies to writing as well.  If your SP offers up ideas for trivial stories and you accept them and act upon them, it will offer up more of the same next time.  Before long, you’ll end up writing nothing but trivial stories.  If, on the other hand, you ignore those ideas, your SP will try something else.  Eventually it will hit upon the kind of ideas you are looking for.  When it does, it’s important you act upon them right away, so as to reinforce to the SP that this is the kind of thing you’re looking for.  The SP will get better and better at offering you ideas for powerful stories, until eventually you will be able to write these kinds of stories all the time.  It’s an interesting way of looking at the subconscious, and it’s all well-grounded in psychology (although I’m not sure Kate is really aware of that).  The SP is not really a separate person, but it’s a good model to work with.  This model also says that you need to read about a wide variety of topics, instead of vegging out in front of the TV.  It needs good stuff on file to offer you new combinations of good stuff, after all.

Storyteller is a fun book.  I strongly recommend picking up a copy through (pretty much the only place you’ll find it).

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