Monday, August 20, 2018

Chaos Is My Bitch

Sacchi Green

I like to think that chaos is my bitch. Or is it the other way around? However you look at it, writers may have exceptionally chaotic minds, but what makes us writers is that we form patterns from the chaos, linking randomly acquired information, images, memories, dreams, into some form of order that can ultimately become a coherent story. Not necessarily universally coherent; stories can take new shapes that most readers find chaotic at first (think of James Joyce’s Ulysses) and many readers never do figure out (think of Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.) But Joyce’s works are now considered classics, and so are other outside-the-box works like Kerouac’s and Pynchon’s. New ways are continually being found, or at least tried, to give shape to the chaotic contents of the mind.

It isn’t easy to take control of our chaotic thoughts. The ones that can go together to make a greater whole are often deeply buried, and the mysteries of our neurons are beyond me, but I think the minds of writers, and creators in general, have an above-average ability for one thought to trigger another and one line of thought to lead to more, and on and on.

The process isn’t entirely, if ever, under our own control. Time after time I’ve been amazed at the way bits of information I’d forgotten, or don’t even know how I knew, rise to the surface of my mind to fit into something I’m trying to write. Sometimes it’s like peripheral vision, seeing something out of the corner of the mind’s eye when you’ve taken a break from searching. In bed half asleep, or in the shower, or driving, or walking, suddenly there it is, the link you need, the solution to a plot problem, or the certainty that you have to go back a thousand words and take a different direction. Or even the realization that you need to do more research, which of course leads to more and more ideas.

I read somewhere—yes, that’s the kind of chaotic bit I’ve accumulated over many years—that Einstein’s brain was found, after his death, to have a structure far more conducive to linkage between different areas than the average brain. I know I should look that up to verify it, but it’s almost midnight, and I’m sleepy, so let’s just say that it is, at least, a theory. In any case, it’s fair to say that theoretical physics was Einstien’s bitch. It’s not really fair, I admit, to claim that a mind full of chaotic thoughts is a writer’s bitch. But aren’t there times, when we’re writing, forging links between element of chaos into a story, that we’d like to think so?


  1. You're so right, about the weird way those connections emerge.

    I do wonder how unique this is to authors. Maybe everyone thinks that way, but they don't externalize it.

  2. Probably everyone thinks that way to some extent, but writers make an art of it. Or art from it. I like to think that we have better linkage capacities than most, but I'm not wiling to have my brain dissected to prove it. Not yet, any way.

  3. Ha! Too true that brains shouldn’t be dissected until after death. Also true that writing usually involves finding connections or patterns from apparently random ideas.


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