Take a Break From Patterns, If You Can.

I look for patterns. Even when i don’t look for them with my conscious mind, my subconscious is at work piecing them together.

So is yours, by the way. It’s intrinsic in the human mind to detect patterns– sometimes even when they are not actually there. And if we don’t see one at all, we move to make one.

It’s deeply evolutionary, and probably on some level has kept us alive, out of the jaws of whatever prehistoric thing. But as useful as patterns were to our ancestors, and to us, even now, a detectable pattern, plan, or form is not always the most desirable outcome.

You may assume at this point that I’m speaking of the perennial pantsers vs. planners debate. In a sense I am, but indirectly. That old literary chestnut relates to how an author goes about composing a full-fledged story arc–a means to a finished product. A finished product with, yes, a pattern.


We go beyond the simple matter of pants or planning, however, when we talk about pure experimentation with our writing.

Experimenting with your words, your use of language, even the shapes your sentences make on the printed page is  a significant exercise of the imagination. Throwing things out there, breaking all the rules, or making up our own. It’s exciting, but scary. It’s liberating but also nerve wracking. Practitioners of this are both the powerful and the prisoner.

Prisoner? How? Why to the patterns of course.

Again, the human mind is not random by nature, no matter how odd some of it’s creations may be. It will seek out a pattern. It will impose one where none exists. And once recognized, it will strive to add matching components that complete said pattern, real or imaginary. Such rules that spring lessen the positive impacts of writing without caution.

Put another way, we ironically, must work harder to be random, to color outside of the lines, than we do to fall into place in our creative work.

I’m working on some long form fiction now that can best be classified as experimental. I’ve told myself I must do only two specific (and for now secret) things with the work. Beyond those, it need not, should not make conventional sense. And yet, there I sit during any given writing session on this project looking for proper ways to construct an arc or assign motivation to a character. Not only am I pulling a Nanowrimo by blocking out the inner editor, I am trying to block out inner logic. Believe me, it’s easier to block the editor.

Still, it’s worth it for a chance to jump into the fiction-writing sandbox. I’ve no idea what future this long form experiment has. It may go public, it may stay hidden in my computer. It may or may not even get finished. (If one can truly finish such a project.) But if I keep reminding myself to not make too much sense, the benefits will appear.

1 Comment

  1. This is wonderful. It’s great to connect, patterns.

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