Chaos Theory: The SDIC in Becoming a Writer

1581517125Before I get to what SDIC stands for, allow me to make a point via the following two example descriptions, the last of which can be found in my novel, What’s In A Name.

The correct shade of Lena’s ring finger returned. But then it went numb. She opened and closed her hand to try to break the numbness.

The correct shade of Lena’s ring finger returned. But then it went numb. She repeatedly opened and closed her hand to try to break the numbness.

Without any additional context, I have used these to illustrate a difference between them. The proposition describes actions that are clear even in the first sentence, although that sentence was merely written. It needed the benefit of what the second also benefits from: an edit.

Writing, editing, and communication are now my life’s purpose. I refer to all three as a concept that I like to call story-telling communication, which I have a great interest in and an aptitude for. I desire to get better at it, and I’m going to keep learning about the discipline of all three. Story-telling communication fulfils me and feeds into my intention in life. So the goal is to keep doing it well. Which brings me now to this:

To dispense with the verbosity, the ornateness, and the overwriting in English, particularly when writing literature, one must understand the language in all its contradictions and ability to be pedantic and prescriptive. Take the syntactic theory of pied-piping, for example. It can lead to, according to professor John Lawler, who is a retired grammarian from the University of Michigan, “such mind-numbing spectra of nonrestrictive relatives.” Just Google the term and you’ll find out for yourself. Better yet, check out this post, What kind of structure with a relative pronoun is this?, on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange and read professor Lawler’s response.

The first example in the illustration above is a matter of what can result when one writes: wordiness, over-explaining. The second exemplifies the reason that I write: to say something succinctly and make the description vivid. Four years ago, I had no idea how to achieve such results. Now I know about and understand theories, concepts, and syntactic structures: pied-piping, whiz-deletion, heavy noun phrase movement, A-movement, Wh-movement, filler-gap dependency and islands, A-Raising, and the list goes on. I don’t just throw these terms out to impress you; I’ve mentioned them because I have discovered that being aware of them and how to use them help me to parse sentences correctly, create vivid descriptions, and express profound thoughts. These capabilities make me a better writer and editor. Personally, I lean towards being a prescriptivist rather than a relativist when it comes to English grammar: “A key aspect of traditional grammar, prescriptivism is generally characterized by a concern for good, proper, or correct usage.” I believe that it is extremely important to learn the rules and accept those rules, whether they make sense to you or not. The idioms and inconsistencies of English is one of my greatest allies in continuing to learn my craft because those challenges push me to make sense of those idioms and inconsistencies.

So, learning is a real journey. The path is constantly riddled with the real temptation to overwrite. And I have given in countless times, but then I must face that demon in my work. They could have caused a failure, but that wasn’t an option for me, so I continued, and the result is the final official version of my first novel, What’s In A Name. I now know that there was a sensitive dependence on initial conditions to have arrived at this point. “Sensitive dependence on initial conditions”: SDIC. I was reading a Wikipedia article on chaos theory, which “is a branch of mathematics focusing on the study of chaos . . . The butterfly effect, an underlying principle of chaos, describes how a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state (meaning that there is sensitive dependence on initial conditions).”

I was struck by that last statement in parentheses. The Feigenbaum constant and the Mandelbrot set, both of which are highly mathematical, are all interesting subjects to me. There are many articles and YouTube videos that explore these subjects fascinatingly. My understanding of such principles and theories have impacted and led me to some interesting conclusions and a healthy, I believe, point of view about my journey to become a writer. I am now 43 years old, and I started this process when I was 39. I knew that I was willing to sacrifice a lot to achieve this result and important milestone: I have solely written and self-published a full-length book (82,500 words). And I am now taking a moment to reflect. (But this will only be a moment because there is still so much to learn, to do, and to achieve.) I also want to put it all in perspective and also give you a better sense of who I am and why I have chosen to write. Hopefully, the result will leave you wanting to read what I have to say in my novel. Don’t we all write because we have something to say?

The writing and publishing mistakes that I made had scared me, and so I thought that I needed to hide or disguise them. Not anymore. Because on my journey (my writing is the case in point) there was a sensitive dependence on initial conditions. I know that now. And the fact is, I couldn’t hide my mistakes, because I had already put them all up on the Internet, where they are immortalized. Clearly, I was documenting everything without even realizing it. I’m now glad that I have done that, and will continue to do so. I strive for a trustworthiness, an honesty, in my own work. Trustworthiness is comprised of three things that I have another acronym for: CRH. It stands for competence, reliability, and honesty. I document my experiences regularly, and one such example is the answers that I wrote down when I had asked myself the following three questions: What is my competence? What is my reliability? What is my honesty? Please allow me to share my answers with you:

My competence is my successful actions
  1. Knowing and understanding myself.
  2. Figuring out my problems and solving them.
  3. Writing and telling a good story.
  4. Figuring out how to do the things I need to be successful or finding the people who can show me how to be successful.
My reliability is the quality I consistently trust in
  1. My intelligence.
  2. My awareness that I live on a planet that is full of life.
  3. That I am one part, an element, of life on Earth and within the entire universe.
My honesty is the sincerity in or about my work
  1. That I’ve got my work, meaning I know it and I understand it.
  2. That I am capable of doing it daily.
  3. I am enough to do it daily.

How did I become trustworthy? Through competence, reliability, and honesty. Together, they create trustworthiness. How did I arrive at this milestone? There was a sensitive dependence on initial conditions. I am grateful for my own perceived failures, for I now know that they weren’t failures after all. I am grateful for the lies I told myself, for I now know that I was just trying to find my purpose. And here it is. SDIC is important in not only having achieved this publication, and educational and re-education milestone, but also in all the other great things I plan to achieve as a writer.

Stay tuned. 2020 is going to be great. I want that for myself, so I want that for you as well. Get a copy of the final official publication of What’s In A Name. You’ll probably see yourself in this retrospective novel about the power of silence.

Garie McIntosh

February 13, 2020

 

 

 

 

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