Think Nothing

Sometimes when I’m having trouble rewriting, I think of the movie “Searching for Bobbie Fisher.” In one scene, the mentor, played by Ben Kingsly, is trying to help his prodigy student understand a particular chess puzzle he has set up for him. The student can’t see it. In a fit, Kingsly sweeps the pieces off the board and commands, “Now see the board.”

Don’t over complicate things. It can be very tempting while rewriting to start tearing your story up at the roots, to add new characters, kill old ones, or introduce fresh subplots. Not that any of these ideas should be off limits, but it is important to remember that a story is not a perfectly balanced series of scenes, but a stream of energy upon which your characters ride from event to event.

For instance, I cannot, no matter how often I have tried, think my way through a story that does not yet satisfy me. I have tried, and it is like trying to build a log cabin out of wet spaghetti. The intellect does not know what should come next in a story any more than it knows whether you want to wear the red shirt or blue shirt today. Your intuition, however, your heart, you desire—these know when a story is working and when a story isn’t.

And what I have noticed, particularly in rewriting, is that the parts of my story that work the least are those parts I tried to solve intellectually. I stepped out of the stream and tried to figure out what came next and so constructed a perfectly logical next scene, which, for no logical reason, simply didn’t work.

In rewriting, I go back to that which is true energetically to the story, knowing all that I need to find is always contained within it. After all, everything in your stories, just as in life, is connected. When writing or rewriting, clear your mind, sweep the pieces off the board, and find the story’s flow. A true beginning always leads to a true ending as long as you stay in the stream and follow where it’s headed.

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