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Finding Patterns in Chaos
There's an unexpected order in what often feels random ... and your art might should maybe reflect it.
This is part of my “Art of Noticing” series, in which I learn, find, or discover the things around me that usually go unnoticed and turn them into an endless source of creative inspiration.
Today, I noticed that I pretty much always wake up at 3am on the dot. It made me wonder if there are always patterns in randomness, hinting at an underlying order that art might want to keep in mind.
For some reason, I always open my eyes to see I’ve awoken at 3am. Exactly 3am. The world is different at that time. The stillness of the night, the haunting quiet … and me, all alone. But why? Why this specific hour? I know about the internal clock, and about subconscious programming of things like sleep, but still it made me wonder: What other patterns aren’t we seeing? Are there other hidden patterns like this, operating in the background?
Any pattern that I notice reminds me of the way I repeat themes in my books in different disguises, and how visual artists tend to sometimes revisit the same motifs over and over again in their art. I don’t always notice my own repeating elements, and I certainly don’t always see them in others’ creations, but they’re there. And because they are, that means they’re subtly influencing our perceptions and interpretations of all sorts of things, just like my seemingly random wake-up time affects my day whether I think about it or not.
For us as creators, these rhythms and patterns are worth paying attention to as part of the natural order. Recognizing them and acknowledging them in what we make can help reveal layers beneath the surface … which has the power to transform our work from ordinary to something more.
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Here's how this "noticing" can benefit my stories and art:
1. Adding rhythms to stories
Adding intricate patterns and recurring themes to my stories has the power to add depth, inviting the audience to delve deeper, and discover the hidden layers.
(Okay, maybe this is less of a “thing to try” for me than for other creators. My stories are already really complex.)
Much like a recurring dream, these patterns can captivate the mind, urging one to explore further.
2. Creating more relatable characters
Recognizing the patterns in our lives, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can provide insights into human behavior, psychology, and motivations.
This understanding can be a goldmine for character development, helping us craft personas that are both complex and relatable. Because remember: We’re characters in life. Characters in stories should be like us … unless, of course, the fact that they’re nothing like us is the point of a given story.
3. Learning subtlety
Sometimes it’s good to be grand and dramatic, but it can be overdone. Sometimes, instead, it's the silent, consistent patterns that really make a character ring true. Adding dumb little elements like a 3am wake-up or a 3pm craving for snacks can create familiarity and authenticity in a character, leading a deeper connection from the audience.
Keep in mind that sometimes it's not the broad strokes, but the subtle, consistent patterns that create a lasting impact. Noticing the small things is — for me, at least — an invitation to pause, listen, and find the profound in silence.
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