Ex Nihilo, Part 2: Organization

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Part two of my four-part weekly series, Ex Nihilo.

Disclaimer.

Ordinarily, the steps between my freewrite and my rough draft are an indeterminate blur. I don’t sit down to write a formal outline, nor do I adhere to any specific method to get the job done. I prefer to mold my words like clay, gradually transforming bits and pieces of my freewrite and the emerging structure inside my head into a comprehensible whole. Nevertheless, for the sake of illustrating (however imperfectly) what I go through during this process, I’ve decided to try and condense my intermediate thoughts into a tangible set of notes.

Reviewing and organizing my ideas.

In last week’s installment, I told you that I like to flesh out a new blog by writing down as many associations as possible, regardless of how they relate to each other and regardless of whether or not they make sense.

Once the dust settled and I was able to come back to my blog with a fresh perspective, I reviewed what I’d unearthed, taking survey of the raw literary ore that stood before me so that I could figure out how to transform it into precious metal.

Finding a theme.

I always search for some fundamental concept that unifies the majority of my thoughts, giving my embryonic blog form, purpose and direction. I sat down at my desk with my freewrite in front of me, banged my head for a while in frustration, and eventually came up with some ideas. Here are a few of them (not an exhaustive list):

  1. Imagination is a necessary and indispensable part of the human condition.
  2. Imagination is the force that drives progress.
  3. Imagination is how we make sense of the world.
  4. Imagination described as a magic power.
  5. What is imagination?

I wanted a theme that would 1) give form and substance to my freewrite, 2) be interesting, and 3) relate directly to my readers as individuals. I considered number five, as it easily satisfied the first condition. But I thought about it for a bit and decided it would be too easy to create a bland point-by-point description that would bore my readers and send them away to the next thing. I wanted my blog to develop. I wanted to lead my readers down a mystical road that would ultimately end with some kind of explosive climax.

Then I considered combining five and three, and came up with the idea of presenting imagination as a launching point, the beginning of a journey that culminates in a greater understanding of reality. I thought that by leading the reader along this journey, I could create the kind of developing topic I was looking for and satisfy the second condition.

That left me with the third and most difficult condition. I needed to tweak my theme so that it would speak personally to each of my readers, then distill it down to a single title that would jump out from a person’s newsfeed, demanding to be read.

Satisfying that third condition is exceedingly tricky. I still haven’t found the solution for my upcoming blog, and I’ll most likely have to figure it out as I’m writing the rough draft.

The outline.

In the end, by cannibalizing my freewrite and combining it with my emerging theme, I cobbled together the following rough outline, which I’ll refer back to when I work on the rough draft for Part 3.

1. Our vision of the universe starts with a spark, a lamp set down at our feet to guide the way.

  • Imagination inspires us. It’s a fire in the soul, burning. Radiant. Irridescent. Yearning.
  • Imagination is a light reaching out into the darkness, giving us hope and light.
  • Imagination provides a framework, a way of perceiving the world. The world is full of mysteries. Through imagination, we make sense of the inexplicable. A framework. A bulwark. A perceptive power. Imagination, like love, is a unique kind of magic (can link to “How is Love like Magic?”)

2. Imagination is not only the lamp set down at our feet, but the impulse that drives us forward into the darkness unafraid.

3. Imagination leads us through the dark, guilding us.

  • Imagination is our way to make sense of the inexplicable. Imagination is the ability of the human mind to assign meaning and understanding to the unknown. Imagination is a way of looking at the world, a confident trust in the unknown, faith that the world is fundamentally ordered, faith that the world can be made sense of if only we try.
  • Imagination gives the unknown new life. Imagination helps us to relate to reality. Through the fantasies that we imagine, we find that what was previously ignored because it was unknown has suddenly captivated us, and we want to learn more. Therefore, our imagination is what leads us to a love of what’s real. Imagination is the front door, the gate by which we enter a world of knowledge, for without imagination, where and how do we find the inspiration to move forward through the dark?

4. Imagination precedes every discovery. It is the mentor who teaches not by rote memorization of facts but through hands on experience, through passion and dedication and a profound desire to discover the truth.

  • Imagination is a taste, a hint of what’s to come, a promise, a covenant between the Universe and Man.
  • Imagination allows us to reach beyond he obvious, to make a wild leap of faith, to reach out into the darkness and grapple with that which we don’t fully understand. And once we’ve reached into the darkness and taken hold of something hitherto completely unknown and unexplained, we can use reason and logic to follow its trail, slowly approaching it while we continue to grab ahold of it with our imaginations so that eventually we can fully illumine it and more completely understand the Truth.

5. Imagination does not operate counter to reason, but as a complimentary force, the passion that drives discovery.

  • Imagination is not opposed to cool-headed reason: the two are complimentary forces that must be given equal weight. Imagination is what provides the fire and the passion behind our pursuits; cool reason and logic are the vehicles by which we make our dreams come true. Together, the soul of imagination and the mechanics of logic and reason, we do wonderous things. (Can probably link to “How can I rediscover the magic of childhood blog.)

6. Imagination brings fulfillment to the human experience. It gives us the passion we need to pursue the truth in a creative way. It inspires us to live. It inspires us to love.

  • Imagination makes us able to love. How does it make us able to love? Imagination helps me to love by…I don’t know, but helping us to imagine what the lives of others must be like. Yes, imagination helps us to discover what another’s life might be like. It makes us empathetic. Imagination gives us a foretaste of what life is like for others, making us want to reach out to ask more questions, which in turn leads to a greater understanding, which ultimately¬† leads us to love.
  • Understanding and empathy

7. Imagination inspires us to create, to play a role, however small, in the making of the universe. In this way, we find ourselves both subjects of the Universe and its authors.

  • Let there be light. Light, the creative force behind the making of the cosmos, which exploded into life from nothing, the ultimate act of imagination, the most abundant use of this magical force. We are imitators in this sense. In this sense, we literally reach out into the void of nothing and come back with something. Imagination is the extraordinary power that can transform nothing into something, that can fabricate entire lives, landscapes and civilizations ex nihlo. – Imagination then is a constructive force, a power by which creation is achieved. – Imagination is a well-spring, an inexhaustible source of transformative and rejuvanitive energy.
  • Creativity and imagination: acts that come from these are a mini creation. Just as God created the universe form nothing, and just as it subsists in itself, so too do our stories come from the ether of our minds, and subsist within us. Quote from Tolkein about writing being an act of mini-creation.

Conclusion: “Becomes a supernova of the heart.”

Next week, I’ll talk about the rough draft.

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Author: Jeff Coleman

Jeff Coleman is a writer who finds himself drawn to the dark and the mysterious, and to all the extraordinary things that regularly hide in the shadow of ordinary life.

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