Sunday, October 7, 2007

Changing tack

Imagine you had a mental turntable. No, I’m not talking about one of those ancient phonographic devices for reproducing analogue musical recordings from bulky vinyl discs. What I’m referring to is something even older and much less likely to fit into your living room: A railway turntable.

Imagine you had a device like this in your mind. You’re stuck with a scene, a character, an idea, whatever. It just won’t gel. Probably because you’re sticking too closely to some preconceived direction you were travelling in. For some reason you’re convinced that this is the way it has to be. Even though it’s not working. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Well lucky for you, you’ve just hit the turntable. You’re about to shunt.

Drive your scene, character, whatever, slowly onto the turntable and stop. Look around. You can pick any of the available alternative directions. You can change drivers. You can change destinations. It’s the ultimate "What if?" Let your imagination go down any of the different tracks leading away from the turntable.

And if you get the jitters (damn, what about my perfect set-up in scene 3?) you can always decide you were right in the first place and choose straight ahead.

P.S. For the nitpickers among you: Yes, changing tack is a nautical metaphor. But isn’t creativity all about taking two disparate concepts and conjuring up something new with them?

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