One of my favorite words is fermenting. It’s such a fine word. Letting something sit on the brain and allowing the subconscious to work on it. That’s fermenting for you. I get a line like: “I am a horse, have always been a horse, would always be a horse. Until the witch turned me into a boy.”

The first thing that happens: I am startled. Where did a line like that come from? I don’t know but I am ready to follow wherever it leads. Whatever dance it chooses to perform.

Now some may think I should whip it into shape, make it become what my little pea-sized brain wants.

But that’s not the way of the tao, as Laotse let us know over twenty-five centuries ago. I let it go fermenting. I stick it in the back of my mind, check in every so often. Used to think I was the only one who did this. Then I heard the playwright Edward Albee talk. He said that he will get an idea, stick it away to allow the subconscious to work on it. Check in six months later and see where the idea has flown. Then back into the subconscious again. He does this over a two-year period. Eventually it is full-grown, and a work of art.

After a bit of fermenting, I pull it out for the old look-see. Just so you know, a bit may be six months, sometimes shorter, sometimes more. Nope, it’s not ripened and back into the old subby-conscious it goes, tucked away in the cool, dark places where it gets a chance to grow healthy. From time to time, I pull it out for some nourishment.

Once the idea is ready for the garden, I take it out into the warm sunlight of consciousness. Water it some. Feed it some plant food. And off it sprouts. Soon I have a full-blown work.

It takes a lot of patience for fermenting. It is well worth the time I give it. Look at what it did for Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen. What a lot of writers blame on writer’s block, I call fermenting, giving a work time to sprout muscles and spread its roots.

So be patient. Do some fermenting.

Do you have a favorite word?


7 thoughts on “Fermenting

  1. Do you just tuck the sentences away to ferment in your sub-conscious, or do you record it somewhere and then tuck it into your sub-conscious to ferment? I’m afraid if I just shoved an idea into my head, willy-nilly, I’d forget about it, and then when I tried to remember it, I’d drive myself crazy for days. I think I’d like to try your fermenting idea, but only if I write it in a special notebook or something I won’t lose. Seriously, Don, I’d like to know.

  2. I completely do this! I’ll kick around a phrase for days, jot it down, let it hatch in the subconscious, and then I’ll kick it to the forefront of my brain where it can be surrounded by other words, which hopefully make up a poem, or at least reveal why I kicked it around to begin with. But my favorite word is oxymoron. Not just because it’s funny sounding, or sounds like an insult, but because it pulls in two directions. I love that space in between two opposites.

    Anyhoo, enjoyed your post today, Don! Got the wheels turning. And now I’m wondering why the witch turned the horse into a boy! And would that make him a vegetarian or a fast runner? 🙂

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