And I found out recently there is probably a good reason for that.
I’m reading this book at the moment called Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s about the other kind of decision making – the choices we make in the blink of an eye on instinct alone. These choices exist behind what Gladwell describes as a ‘locked door’. We can’t break into them with our conscious mind, the conscious mind that hesitates and analyses things and wonders if maybe it’s time to do some baking instead. No. These decisions are made from our unconscious mind. And they can be powerful decisions based on conclusions we could never have come to if we let our conscious mind chew on them and analyse them. And reading about this stuff, I can’t stop thinking how relevant it is to writing as well.
Gladwell uses improv actors as an example, and talks about how they create hilarious comedy for a live audience with no script and no idea what will happen next. How do they decide what to do? And how on earth does it turn out funny and entertaining, seeing as it’s made up on the spot with no plan whatsoever? Because of the first rule of improvisation, which is agreement. If the actors accept everything the other actors give them – so if someone walks into the scene and says that there are dinosaurs at the door selling insurance – then there are dinosaurs. No questions.
But how does this apply to writing?
Well, say you’re writing that first draft, and that random something occurs to you, something that you never originally planned for at all. It might be something a lot less crazy than dinosaurs. (Or it might be something a lot more crazy than dinosaurs). Either way, there’s a decision to be made. Don’t think about it, and especially, don’t angst about it. A lot of my favourite scenes in my WIPs have come about not through careful planning (although I do plenty of that as well) but by making that snap decision and agreeing. Even if I don’t always know exactly what I’m agreeing with until afterwards. Sure, sometimes thinking and considering can definitely be good too. But there are times when hesitating can paralyse us, when all we need to do is agree. So next time something surprises you in your writing, give the rule of agreement a go. Trust your instincts, trust the story you’re telling. Say yes. And then see where it takes you.
*Not that you should really have to wonder about this. Everything is better when there are dinosaurs involved.