Thursday, March 1, 2012

Tumbling into Wonderland

The one that started it all.
Little did I know that solving the Rubik's Cube for the first time was like tumbling down the rabbit hole.

I discovered a fascinating Wonderland of twisty puzzles.

An entire world of strange and exciting puzzles materialized before my eyes.  Just months earlier, I thought I had finally joined an exclusive brotherhood having solved the Rubik's Cube.

How could so many other puzzles exist beyond the Rubik's Cube?  Had they always been there?  Was I blind?

If it weren't for the original Rubik's Cube, would I ever have been introduced to the other puzzles I have come to love?

And then it hit me.

How different would my life be if I weren't a writer?

Much like my discovery with the Rubik's Cube, I discovered something when I became a writer.  Had I not pursued a writer's life, I might have missed out reading the following books.

WISE BLOOD by Flannery O'Conner

I have always had a love for short stories, but I was not very well read in my younger years.  Sure, I read Poe and Hemingway, but I devoured King's short story collections after I became overwhelmed by his unabridged novels.

Once I reinvigorated my writing life, I found a secret river of writing knowledge that had been rushing in my own backyard the whole time.  I wanted to write short stories and I had to learn from the best.  And that's when I found Flannery O'Conner.

She demonstrated such skill in such a short amount of time, I found I had to read everything I could get my hands on.  So I read Wise Blood.  I really enjoyed it because it was so quirky.  It almost read like a collection of short stories.

Had I not become a writer, I would not have been compelled to read anything but her short stories.

SOME OF YOUR BLOOD by Theodore Sturgeon

This isn't the first time I have discussed this fantastic novel.  In my earlier post, It's the Journey, Not the Destination, I talk about why it was such a joy to read.

But this book also taught me a great deal about breaking the rules of writing.  I could have easily become frustrated early on and tossed the book aside had I not appreciated it for what it was.

You hear stories about garage sale Picasso's.  Well, had I not become a writer, I may have discarded this book and been none the wiser.

When I read this novel, I did not know much about the writing craft.  To be honest, I did not enjoy it too much.  I laughed in a few parts and the protagonist was interesting, but certainly not likeable to me.

Then again, I didn't really know the difference between a character-driven and a plot-driven story.  All I knew was this book was mildly entertaining, the characters were unpleasant, and I felt like the story was rather pointless.

Had I not wanted to learn from the "greatest" novels, I may not have ever read this book.  But this novel was another rule-breaker in many ways.


Finally, I doubt I would have read so many books on the craft of writing.  There are far too many to mention.

Although, I certainly would have still read the greatly cited ON WRITING, by Stephen King.  I read anything by King.  I would have lined shelves with boxes of cereal if the box panel copy had been written by him.

What about you?  How do you think your life would be different if you weren't a writer?


  1. I can't imagine what my life would be like if I was not a writer. I've always been a writer. I used to write nonsense letters before I learned to actually write, and then I'd perform the stories and songs I had "written" for my family, all while "reading" the sheet filled with my nonsense words.

    Hmmm . . . nope, I can't imagine it. All of the major choices I've made have been designed around my love of reading and writing--my formal education, my career, the way I spend nearly every free minute. Even my home would be different--it's filled with bookshelves and word art.

    Okay, I can answer your question now: I would have a different job, a different home, and I probably wouldn't travel so much. I started traveling to places that inspired great writing, and I've had wanderlust ever since.

    *shudder* A life without writing. I don't even like thinking about it.

    On an unrelated note: I'm reading Joshua Foer's MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN and he seems to lump mnemonists with Rubik's Cube enthusiasts. Have you ever attended one of the memory championships? I think you'd find some of your people there! Mental athletes, they're called. I like that.

    1. And you never became an actress or screenwriter with your performance background? ;-) That's really interesting about your travels. So, if you weren't a writer, you might not seek out Hemingway's old haunts, etc.

      That memory book sounds fascinating. I'll have to check it out. I didn't even know there were memory championships. So, no, I have never attended anything like that in person.

      It is amazing that some people can memorize the digits of pi to thousands of places. Before I got hooked on the Rubik's Cube, I didn't realize they were using memory techniques that everyone uses. Everything from the colors of the rainbow to the order of the planets. But remembering pi is a different challenge than remembering something on the spot.

      I actually taught myself different mnemonics to aid in my short term memory when I learned to solve the cube blindfolded. You have to remember the initial state of the cube before you subsequently solve it blindfolded. Unlike remembering pi, which is a fixed - albeit infinite number - memorizing the Rubik's Cube requires storing a decent size of information in short term memory.

      I would hardly call myself a mental "athlete", but I do like the exercises. Now, if only I could remember what I was supposed to pick up at the grocery store!

  2. Do you have a Kindle? If so, I believe I can lend you the book, if you're interested. Foer is coming to the area one week from today, actually. (Let me know if you'd like a link, I can send it via email. Don't want to "out" your location publicly.)

    I think you are definitely on your way to becoming a mental athlete. You're already on the path, with your mad puzzle skills. :)

    I only use mnemonics to help with geography. They really do work!