How Fiction Emerges from Synchronicity

I have mentioned that writers find story ideas all around them. All you have to do is keep your mind open to wonder.

Here  is an example culled from real life, something you might be prone to forget the moment it happened, unless you let your mind run with it. I volunteer at a local historical museum. Recently I was scanning newspaper obituaries into a computer and then entering them in Excel. I listed name, date of birth, date of death and a hyperlink to the scanned obituary. Then a strange thing happened. I had made an entry and moved on to the next obit and when I came to date of birth I noticed the previous entry date of birth was not aligned properly. By that I mean, as Excel users know, when you type in a date then tab to next cell the entry aligns to the right, but this entry was to the left. So I deleted and retyped, same thing. It would not align right. For some reason, perhaps a ghostly whisper in my hear, I looked at the newspaper article and saw I had the month wrong. It should have been a 3 not a 2, so I typed in the correct date and it aligned correctly.

I do not draw conclusions whether it was a coincidental glitch, or a supernatural whisper from beyond to the tune of  ‘hey, you got my birthdate wrong, please correct.’

As I said, the majority of people would say, ‘well that was weird,’ think nothing more and proceed. But writers must be alert and when weird things happen, jot it down, save it, run with it, let your imagination fly.

This happened the same week that a construction company was working on improving and repairing the sewer system; they have been outside my house for a couple of weeks. I was doing some research on my home computer about a baseball pitcher from the past whose last name I had never heard before. It took about 15 minutes before my brain clicked in. I went out to the kitchen, found the notice from the construction company. It was the same last name of the baseball pitcher. Synchronicity at its best.

One more example, I was visiting a local Native-American museum for the first time. During the tour there was a large picture of a long ago tribal member and the guide discussed who he was and his importance. Two days later at the museum I volunteer at, I picked up a book on sale I had not seen before. It was historical and was about a Native-American woman from the late 19th century. I flipped it open to the picture section in the middle of the book, and there was the same picture I saw two days earlier. Of course I had to buy the book. You do not fool with synchronicity.

What does all this mean? I don’t know, but when you find these things happening in your life YOU can make something out of it. A short Twilight Zone type of story or a horror novel, or anything. As a writer be alert for things little, weird, and odd, and put them to use. Remember, if you do nothing, nothing will happen.

My Personal encounter with mysterious synchronicity

If you are unfamiliar with synchronicity it was explained by Carl Jung as “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship, yet seem to be meaningfully related.[1] Synchronicity is not the same as coincidence, as the phrase ‘meaningful coincidence’ gives synchronicity a near mysterious, magical, type of phenomenon.

To give a personal example, I was listening to a radio talk show about synchronicity in relation in quantum physics or something else I didn’t understand and less than a week later I had a synchronistic experience. This would be a coincidence.

What happened was I published a post on my Mariner blog about the DH. As happens when I write about sports, sometimes I can get carried away. I don’t like the DH and I went over the top a bit. A woman castigated me in the comments section. It was vicious, near troll like. Though part of her argument was incorrect her anger made me revisit what I wrote. Looking at some sentences and phrases through new eyes, I realized the writing should have been better. So I revised it, making it more palatable, less histrionic.

I felt bad, not for the personal attack by the woman, but the fact that my point, though I was trying for humor, came off Trumpesque, that being mean spirited without much thought behind what I was saying. I might be too hard on myself, then as now, and I could have left it as written, but I thought the writing was not what it should have been. So I felt awful for being sloppy in making a point.

The next day, still feeling like poodle doodle, there was an email in my inbox from a blog a subscribe to. It was a guest post about “How to Recover from  criticism (and how to eliminate it!). It explained what causes the urges that may have driven the woman to say what she said. And it is also something we can learn from.

The point is that the column came when I needed it, it was meangful, something beyond coincidence, and there was no casual relationship. A Christian would say it was the hand of God, but I will stick with synchronicity.

How I was seduced into Amazon’s supernatural invisible algorithms

It started innocently enough. I was at the local library and picked up a complimentary copy of Book Page. They also have a website for those who have never heard of libraries. On pages 22-23 in the non-fiction book reviews were two titles of interest to me. And now we get to the synchronicity part.

After attending a film at the local cinema, I headed home and went to Amazon ‘s website to learn more about the books and see how many reviews they garnered. I typed in “Andy Warhol was a Hoarder,” a book by Claudia Kalb in which she covers 12 different people of fame, who, shall we say, had some idiosyncrasies, and whether there is some correlation between madness and genius. I have not read the book, but I think there might be. But not full blown madness you understand. But I will read the book at some time.

But what caught my eye is that the next two books listed on Amazon under the Andy Warhol book were two more titles, totally unrelated to Warhol , hoarding, genius or any sort of mental aberration. But both of those books were listed on the same pages in Book Page as the Warhol book.

We on the outside world, the world of nerds and geeks, we who know nothing of algorithms (let alone the ability to spell it) at least have a basic understanding of what it means. So are we now in some supernatural Amazon algorithmic universe where book titles in a thin, little, complimentary, eclectic magazine magically appear on the same Amazon page? Does Amazon, like a computer that I have heard is in existence, reads a persons brain waves? No longer do you have to say anything to Siri, or to Cortana. You just have to think what you want and the computer will react and do what you wish. Beware what you think. If your wife is standing behind you, don’t think porn.

The other two books were David Denby’s “Lit Up” about his  year of observing a high school literature class for one year to see if today’s students actually have an interest in serious literature, and the other was “On My Own,” by NPR talk show host Diane Rehm. It is about the loss of her husband and non-compassionate choices of health care. These were the three books on pages 22-23 that showed up on the same Amazon page when I typed in the Andy Warhol title. Will it happen again? I am to afraid to try.

But I know in telling you about this synchronicity that I have been pixilated into Amazon’s algorithmic math. Otherwise how could I have written this blog and mentioned these books on Amazon. Somehow Amazon drew me in against my will and left me feeling like an alien abductee. We are doomed. The algorithms are after all of us. Forget Reptilians, forget the grays, forget the walking dead. Beware the algorithms.