Absence makes the plot grow stronger

By Christina Prado

What makes a piece of writing successful?  The answer is less about the words than you might think. What will really make or break your literary efforts are the ideas that govern and shape your work. In this sense, the actual business of writing begins long before any marks at all land on the page. I refer, of course, to that woefully undervalued element of the writer’s working day — staring into space.

True, you may not be scribbling furiously, burning up the paper; you may not be hammering the keys or filling the screen; you may not, in the least, appear to be working, but you are. For, in that moment of seeming absence, in those invisible innermost regions of your brain, you are testing out your idea. You are nurturing it, working out its weaknesses and strengths, being honest about its potential to be a winner in a world that is challenging and competitive. You are deciding whether it is robust enough to take its first steps out onto the gleaming white page.

Once your idea is out there, be brave enough to let it make its own way for a while. One note of caution here; at this stage, it is advisable to keep a rein on. Ideally, the retractable kind. Why? Well, because this is where the words come out to play.

Beautiful, glorious, seductive, alluring, frisky words. More than a million of them in the English language. It’s a minefield out there. You certainly do not want unsuitable words to lead your idea from the path you have so carefully mapped out for it. A quick press on the button marked “Retract” will bring it back, just where you want it.

However, it is just possible that your idea might meet some words that are good for it; ones that make it stronger, more exciting, more at peace with itself than it would be without them. These new influences may require you to adjust your thinking, to develop your idea in a direction you did not anticipate.

At times like these, you would do well to cease your scribbling or hammering; to lay down your pen or close your laptop; to peer into the middle distance, an unseeing look in your eye. While you are doing this, remember; you are not simply staring into space.


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