Rabbit Holes and the Alice Effect


Temptation Leads to Distraction

A big white rabbit confronts you with a new interesting prospect, question, shiny fact. He crooks his paw in a way begging you to follow his lead. The Alice side of your personality shrieks with delight, claps her little hands together and takes an eager plunge down the rabbit hole.

Sound familiar?

All writers have leapt into that dark tunnel of distraction in times past.  You might say the activity hovers at the edge of our conscious minds at all times. Writers possess an innate curiosity to learn about new things, places, people and events. Curiosity may not kill the writer, but the distraction from work already in progress can seem damaging at times.

One might ask why we eagerly allow ourselves the adventure of the rabbit hole. Why can’t we pull ourselves up short and deny the fascination? How can we possibly waste so much valuable writing time on meaningless trivia?

Curiosity vs. Creativity

After a trip with our friend the White Rabbit, do you find yourself energized and ready to begin a new project immediately? Some do. Or, the newly garnered information might set your heart pounding about a fantastic subtle subplot to spark new life into that novel you’ve been shirking for months because staleness had settled on the pages. That, too, has possibilities.

Many writers find new information stimulating and useful. What could pass for distraction might actually form additional depth to a story. A tiny detail unearthed can provide a hitherto unrecognized clue to a puzzle/mystery.

Insights gained during the underground adventure may set the writer onto a path not only unexpected but profitable.

For instance, an odd creature unknown to the average person becomes the focus of a children’s book about the unimaginable creatures that share our planet (i.e., the immortal jellyfish, the sea slug that feeds through photosynthesis or the monogamous sea horse).

Taking Advantage of Distraction

Just because you turned away from your current project and are now pursuing a line of inquiry unrelated to it, all is not lost. You have an opportunity to take advantage of your unplanned research. Take fifteen or twenty minutes to:

  1. Take note of every item that piques your interest.
  2.  Jot down relevancies and put question marks where you’d like to learn more.
  3. Take a moment to contemplate what you could do with the information–essay, short story, informational article, etc.
  4.  Speculate where you could market it—trade mags, regional mags, short books, etc.
  5. Ask yourself how many possible angles you could derive from the information.
  6.  How much additional information may be needed for multiple angles/markets?
  7.  Decide whether the effort would be worth the time spent on these new projects.

Ignore the Rabbit Hole

     Your current project has called you back on no uncertain terms. Perhaps your deadline looms large and ugly. No harm, no foul. You didn’t abandon it, only took a temporary leave of absence.

     Finish the current project. Put your best effort into it. Take adequate time to rewrite and edit. Submit it to your most promising market, publisher or agent. And when the dust settles, turn your attention back to the future.

Time for Exploration Again

     Now, pull out those notes you just made from that rabbit hole. You found enough interest once in the subject. You have something to fill a void of writing time and projects. Use it.

     Your research has begun already. You have ideas, potential markets and audiences. You have many directions for pursuit.

     Indulge yourself. Have fun. Put on your Alice apron, tie a ribbon in your hair and go looking for that big White Rabbit. Put your hand in his and take a leap into the warren of possibilities.

     After all, why would you want to deny yourself an adventure?

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