When I read this paragraph in Thomas Foster's "How to Read Literature Like a Professor" I was very happy indeed:
"It's useful to keep in mind that any aspiring writer is probably also
a hungry, aggressive readeras well and will have absorbed a tremendous amount of literary history and literary culture. By the time she writes her books, she has access to that tradition in ways that need not be conscious. Nevertheless, whatever parts have infiltrated her consciousness are always available to her."
Yes! This is exactly what I was thinking of when this conversation got started!
I wrote: "I don't know that this is always a conscious act on the part of the writer, but perhaps it is a way for the deeper subconscious to arise to the surface shimmering and splashing around so that the conscious mind starts paying attention to it. "
I figure that the reason it is so important to be a prolific reader in order to be a writer is exactly what Foster is saying: I believe that everything you take inside your head stays with you, either consciously or subconsciously, meaning that everything that you read gets dissected and torn apart by your brain that is constantly analyzing for patterns even when you are vegging out on the sofa after a long hard day.
So it's conceivable that I could write a shory story that contains traces and hints of stories I've read in my past without me even being conscious of it. And I've found that happening in my writing, and I find that the more I read, the more I try to notice what's going on with my writing, well, the better I am able to hone my chosen art form. Kickass!
Foster also comments on lateral thinking:
"And lateral thinking is what we're really discussing: they way writers can keep their eye on the target, whether it be the plot of the play or the ending of the novel or the argument of the poem, and at the same time bring in a great deal of at least tangentially related material."
This makes me think of the way that I tend to write my stories: I have a germ of an idea, right? Maybe I know that I want to have a character named Joe Cinderella or write a story that takes place in a swimming pool or I saw a gerbil somewhere and know it has a story for me...
I can't sit down at that moment to write the story, I can maybe brainstorm a little bit, but what usually happens is that I "chew on" the idea for a little bit: I let my little germ of an idea brew and churn and grow (er... germinate?) and then a few hours, days, weeks, months later, I sit down at my computer and I write it.