Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Creative Hive Mind - When Writers & Artists start trends.


When I worked as a visual artist, doing craft fairs and wholesale gallery markets, I would often note how ideas seem to go in waves. Things like using text in jewelry showed up and all of a sudden it was everywhere. It wasn’t that artists were copying other artists, because most craftspeople, like writers, work in isolation. So what was it?

I think there is often what can be called a collective consciousness in the creative mind. A sort of buzzing or frequency that spreads at the same time. Of course there may be something that spurs it, an excellent movie, an item in the news, one person’s visionary idea, but the way it spreads is faster than that. Call it the hive mind, if you will.


Trends in writing seem to be that way, too. Paranormal to dystopian to contemporary to thrillers to horror, the sub genres move through in waves. But the weird thing is, a writer in Canada might have an idea like a writer in New Mexico. The two have never met, never spoken on the phone, never shared their idea, but bingo, here are two manuscripts with similar premises.

It would be easy to get all bunched up about this. All, OMG, they stole my idea! But the thing is, like a room full of artists, give everyone the same brush, canvas, and paint and no two images will be the same. The same goes for writing.

So what spurred this blog topic, you might wonder. Well, I watched the movie, Winter’s Bone, for the first time last night and I was freaking out in tiny spasms. It’s not that SING TO THE WIND is like Winter’s Bone at all, except it is. I recognized settings and characters and rhythms of speech. And what’s more, I’ve had a shiny new idea for a few months now, that reminds me even more of this movie. Am I not going to write it? No, that would be ridiculous. It’s not the same, it will have my voice, my plot, and it's a kick ass premise. It just goes to show the hive mind is buzzing for me.

So what about you? Have you noticed this collective consciousness in your creative world?

15 comments:

  1. I love the idea of the hive mind, and as you know I will now have to see Winter's Bone. I have noticed this collective consciousness. Every now and then a thread will pop up on a forum about this, or a comment will be made by a writer who stumbled across a book that sounds a lot like their WIP. This collective consciousness will never bother me. As you said no two images will be the same.

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    1. It was such a good movie. And scary - hard core white redneck mafia sort of film. Real backwoods. Jennifer Lawrence was in it pre-Hunger Games.

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  2. I was flipping through PM the other day and stamped my feet when I saw that a Courtney Summers' book had been pitched as Heathers meets Mean Girls. I LOVE Courtney Summers. I love that particular book. For a split second, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and give up. Because Courtney Summers wrote MY book. And Lauren Oliver. And...and...... The more I thought about, I realized the only person who could write my idea like me is ....well.....ME. Then I have a Twitter friend whose book also sounds exactly like mine and we've been querying the same agents, too. I gave her my novel to read bc I was at the point of "Why query if our pitches=the same and the same agents are getting it"? She came back to me and said, "Our books are nothing alike. Go query."

    No idea is quite the same.

    :)

    I also have yet to see Winter's Bone. Have seen everything else w/JLaw but not WB. I have a hard time with drug addiction on screen...(and in books too!). Is there a lot of it.

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    1. That was brave to share your work! And I can imagine the freak out.

      No, there are definitely drug references, and an uncle who uses on screen - but the story is less about the drug addiction than the fall out from people who live in the world of meth cooking. JLaw was excellent - and her best friend with baby....totally Amber's big sister and baby from my book. (so see, similar but different)

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  3. Yup, happened in small amounts, parts of an idea or certain character trait combinations. It's part of art, there's only so many creative ideas humanity can have based on the knowledge, societal and psychological environment we live in right now. No reason to fear for the uniqueness of one's muse, she's just exchanging tips at the water cooler. ;)

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    1. Love this atmospheric water cooler! Here's a glass to you, Vero!

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  4. I am so dependent and delighted by my inner loneliness, that the idea of collective consciousness, however metaphorical it may be, makes me shudder. I am a terrible anti-social...I know it sounds horrid, but I am very happy this way. Very intriguing post :)>

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    1. We'll be very quiet in your head then :0).

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  5. I wrote a picture book three years ago, that so resembled a short story written in the 1800's, it was scary. All the way down to our character having the same name. It was written by a kinder teacher, and although it was never published as a book, I had to go and do a full rewrite of my story. My CP and I read her short story and joked about me being reincarnated from this lady! That's how close the stories followed each other.

    But I agree, when we find a premise resembling our own, don't NOT write the story, make it your own. There are only so many plots, but it's our own tweaks, our own voices, situations, characters, etc., which makes the story ours. Great post, JRo.

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    1. That's a crazy story Candilynn! Maybe it's true!

      And thank you.

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  6. I've noticed this with so many things in the writing community especially. The whole "angel" thing was big, mermaids, and right now it seems aliens are catching on (insert annoyed sound from this general direction as my WIP deals with aliens). Funny how it works! It reminds me a little of when I used to work as a cashier and I swear people came in waves--I'd sit there by myself for fifteen minutes and then everyone in the store would want to check out at once for no seeming reason. It just seems that people work in this hive-like way (I call it waves, but same thing :). Totally fascinating to me!

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    1. So true - it was this way when I did craft fairs. Though sometimes I think with shopping it's more of a herd mentality than hive mentality.

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  7. I've been having similar (in my case,paranoid) thoughts with my CPs, when I read something in their work that is in mine - until I realize that they haven't read that part of my book yet! I can never decide if it's hive mind, or that people are wired to look for patterns or if it's just a crazy coincidence. But it's definitely scary when it happens. I've had to pull myself back from the ledge when I come across something that is similar to my work and remind myself, no matter how similar, no matter how resonant, my work is unique. and so is yours. :)

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  8. A huge YES!!! I think great minds think alike:) But you're right, one story may sound the same, but be very different because of your voice and take it. Good for you to keep write the idea no matter what you saw! :)

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  9. Yes, this happens a lot, I think. There are no new stories, as they say, and it's going to happen a lot that people will come across similar settings, plot points, and characters.

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Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'