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?

Life’s Impressions from a Tree

A Talking Tree by Laura Thomas

Come along with me, let’s go on an adventure, out into the woods where we will find a talking tree. Now I bet you didn’t know trees could talk, or that I know where one is. Interested in coming along? Ok, let’s go.

We will need to drive by car to our destination; no it won’t take long and be sure to dress warm. The ground is covered in white and the temperature is only about 30 degrees: make sure you have your hat and gloves. Do you have everything? Good. Now grab your backpacks, for one never knows what will happen, so better to be prepared. We are here; our destination is up and over the hill, so ready to hike? Let’s go!

 I want you to walk as quietly as you can, why? Well, we may be able to see an animal, but better yet, I want you to listen. Take a deep breath; what do you smell? Nothing. Try again.  Oh, there you go. Now, tell me what do you smell? Yes, the tart smell of the pine trees, the dampness of the cold air. Now tell me, what do you hear? A soft wind that brushes the tree branches together.  Oh, there goes a bird, and yes, I believe it was a flicker.

Walking further along, we need to climb up this hill.  Look what’s in the snow. Tracks, and I believe they are wolf. Look at the size of the prints and the stride.  Oh man, they are the size of my hand, so that is a big animal! There are also deer, coyote and fox tracks that we can see. With the snow on the ground evidence is left behind that tells us what animals have used the trail.

Look, there is our tree. See it? It’s a huge tree that I can’t wrap my arms around it. Maybe two of us could, but I’m not sure. It’s a tall, stately old tree, and look at the size of the branches.  They are almost as big around as I am.  Now look up to the most unique feature; it looks like an octopus. While most trees only have one trunk with branches, this tree has multiple trunks at the top. These trunks branch off from the main trunk that is missing, at odd, twisted angles.

Come and sit at the trunk of this tree and listen.  This tree is telling us a story–one of long cold winters, ravaged by snow and winds, and hot summers where water was hard to get. The years it has seen come and go. A story of survival.  But most of all, the joys this tree has seen–the birds that call this tree home and raise their young in its protective branches, along with the squirrels that have inhabited it, eating the nuts from the pinecones it grows. This tree has also witnessed the baby deer born and all the wild things that live in these woods.

It is drawing late in the day and we must return to the car. We say good-by to the tree, but we will come back to visit our talking tree.

Alive in the Darkness

by Shira Marin

 “As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being

– Carl Jung

Jung’s quote evoked the memory of a deeply sad and grief-stricken moment in my life. My husband walked out one day, and many months later, I accepted that it was likely the end of our marriage. 

I felt extraordinary fatigue in the pit of my soul. The world became a vast, drab gray plane. My existence seemed worthless. Bereft of energy to go on, day after day, I simply sat; I stared into space not only outer but inner. It was there that I saw the vastness of my existence. Would I wander this landscape endlessly?

A notion flitted across my consciousness, a caption across the edge of this vision: What if the only purpose of my existence is to breathe? My breath caught in my throat. Would that be enough? To just breathe, each moment a new beginning? What if I accepted this notion as a true possibility and just started there. If this breathing was enough, then my purpose would be to simply be; that was enough. That certainly would be valid. No one had to know. I needed to know and know ever more simply and deeply.

Just being was enough reason to stay alive; I realized I was actually meant to be alive, that my mere being was actually a contribution to the ecology of the planet, itself in a state of pure being. I began suspecting that this was true of everything on the planet and that we are all related through just being together. 

What could this new reckoning bring into my life? I began looking at where I might be led. Over time, it was following this experience that prompted me to write what I thought was going to be my doctoral dissertation. Instead, a memoir about my relationship with a Titan Greek goddess named Hekate emerged. Eventually, the memoir was published as both an audio recording and a book.

I pondered what would grow if all of us humans were to undergo the experience of being led to face the ultimate being sense of our existence, to see what would arise within us spontaneously. What might intentionally cultivating an ongoing inner world sensibility eventually lead to? And what yield might we harvest from such an effort if it guided not only our personal but also collective consciousness?

 If you work with the process of connecting to your inner world, your psyche, or if this piece has moved you in some way, I welcome your responses.