Monday, July 11, 2011

Law 7: Vision - To See Far

Making Monday

Horizons are magical. They mark the boundary between the known world and terra incognita (where there may even be dragons).

Most of us live with horizons far narrower than the landscape we can see. We spend our days constrained by the bounds of work, family and friends, and ever-changing patterns of pixels that wink at us with the promise of endless virtual horizons.

The seventh Law of Making, the first of the final trilogy called the Laws of Transcendence, is, "True Makers  See Beyond the Actual to the Potential."

One of the ways makers see beyond is that they see far in both space and time. From going to the high ground to take in the lay of the land to understanding how things work over time, makers have broader horizons. It's not because makers are seers: they don't see what will be. Instead, they see what can be.

At one point in Joe Versus the Volcano (a fascinating movie, by the way, if you want to study narrative recursion), Patricia says,
"My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement"
Makers, when they can see the big picture, are like that.

Where most people confronted with a blank page see, for example, an unfinished assignment, makers see beyond to a universe of possibilities. In the sixth grade, we were assigned to write sentences that used our spelling words. The first week, I turned in a single twenty-seven word sentence that used all twenty spelling words. The second week, having decided that concise was too easy, I turned in a four-page story that incorporated my spelling words. Then I decided I would write a twenty-page story and use one spelling word on each page in something other than its ordinary sense but in a way justified by the story (e.g., "donkey" as the name of a vehicle instead of the animal). The goal, of course, was too ambitious for my twelve-year-old discipline, but it illustrates the ambition.

An aspect of the vision of makers, which has particular relevance to writers, is that they can see the dependency chains. A dependency chain is a high-sounding title for all the things that need to happen to produce a particular outcome. If, for example, you want to be in another city at a certain place and time you have to book your flight, pack, get to the airport, get through security, get to the right gate, board the plane, and so on. In a novel, one of the best ways to get to the cool climax you envision is to start there and work your way back, asking at each step what had to happen before to get to this point.

Of course, there is a price to be paid for this vision: the dark side of seeing far means you need more patience than normal. Makers constantly see things that can't yet be: the time may not be right, resources aren't yet available, your audience isn't ready, or the process simply takes time. Whatever the reason, makers need the courage to be patient until the thing they see from afar can be realized in the right way.

Image: Bill Longshaw /


  1. I love magical horizons. And yes, I live in one of those less magical worlds but writing helps me get to that magical one. Sounds like you were getting there in 6th grade.

  2. I've suffered accusations of being only tenuously connected to the world of our common experience since long before the sixth grade.

    I debated about sharing that story (because it might expose me to charges of self-aggrandizement) but it's a simple, yet clear, example of seeing something differently than my classmates.

    What I think of as the best books, whether fact or fiction, are all about exploring new horizons. At one level, writing keeps us in touch with our primeval urge to see what's around the next bend and then run back to our fellows, saying, "I found something cool! Come and see."

  3. We are the makers, if we so choose, and you obviously do.


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