Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 14 comments
Obviously the best thing about being married to a left-handed person when you're right handed is you can hold hands and both still write. Cool, huh?

Beyond that, I've also discovered that handedness dictates one's orientation to the world. Thus, my hubby does a lot of things "backwards." Sometimes it's just puzzling. Other times I realized he's shown me an approach I'd never considered.

Take loading the dishwasher, for example. He loaded a stack of bowls the opposite direction I do--and they fit BETTER. Holy habituation, Batman! I'd never have tried that trick on my own.

I think this lesson has application to writing--especially when you're perplexed with a plot hole or an uncooperative character. Instead of plowing ahead full steam on your usual course, consider approaching from the opposite direction. Reorient. Perhaps you need to draft a scene from a secondary character's point of view in order to see your protagonist and his motivations more clearly. Perhaps your protagonist needs to react differently to her circumstances--opposite of what you've planned. Maybe the antagonist is a misunderstood hero, or the nice neighbor is a psycho.

Mental habits can be a tough obstacle to overcome. When you're most stuck, you might need to add more "lefties" to your circle of beta readers. Or you might try rearranging the furniture in your writing space or changing writing venues. You'll be surprised how a single turn can open new possibilities.

Have you experimented with approaching a problem from the opposite direction you usually take? How might reorienting help your writing?

14 comments:

  1. I think it's important to be open to different options, and be willing to take risks or take a different turn that you normally wouldn't. Though I have to admit sometimes it's hard for me to do those things, especially when I don't know what might happen to my story if I take an unexpected approach. But some of the best outcomes can come from surprising--or even unconventional--ideas, right?

    ~Wendy Lu

    The Red Angel Blog

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    1. Well said, Wendy. Habits can be hard to break, but the risk can be worth the reward to a great breakthrough.

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  2. This is a great reminder. One of my favorite beta readers doesn't write in my genre--she helps so much because she looks at my work from a different perspective.

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    1. I rely not only on those who write outside my genre, but also avid readers who don't write. Each has something unique to bring to the table.

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  3. Yeah for lefties! ;)

    Very good point.

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    1. Brain science says lefties have an especially high intuitive sense--a perspective I always appreciate.

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  4. I've learned that I can't write at home. So I had to approach the situation differently. Now I go out to write. While it's not a perfect situation (i mean, why commute when you can work from home?) it's better than not getting any writing done because I'm staring at the stack of bills, the pile of dishes and the mounds of laundry...

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    1. My husband is the same way. He works better in an environment that has a steady drone of noise. Every once in a while I try his way, but usually I'm not that productive. :-)

      And there are plenty of public places to write in that don't require a purchase, like the library, a train station, a hotel lobby or the benches at the mall.

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  5. I definitely do this more while revising. I'll e-mail my crit partners, and we'll brainstorm how to fix story problems, and usually the ideas that are completely out of the box are the ones that I'll end up going with.

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    1. Reorienting is SO important in the revisions process. Solutions usually are a few feet around the corner of the box your problem happened in.

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  6. As a fellow left hander, I love this post :) What a great way to think about writing!

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    1. Heck, this idea is helpful even when assembling jigsaw puzzles or playing Boggle. Our brains process information differently when we see it anew.

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  7. I need to find another way of looking at things. At the moment I'm in limbo with my WIP. I can't seem to write it anymore. I think I need to stop being hung up on the poetics of my writing and just write it no matter how horrible it sounds. Otherwise I'll never get it done!

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    1. I can get myself in the very same tangle when drafting. Maybe it would help you to call the first draft a "descriptive outline". Then you can get the bones of the story down, and later write a "first draft" (actually a second) with more assurance and speed.

      Good luck!!

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