Cultivating a Left-Eye Point of View

Pause for a moment, and focus on an object–a telephone poll, a basketball hoop, a magnet on the refrigerator, the flickering flame of a candle.  It can be anything.  Look at it closely, line it up with your vision.  And point at it with your index finger.

telephone poll

 

candle

 

Now–close your left eye, while continuing to point at the object, looking at it only through your right eye.  If you are like approximately two-thirds of the population, your finger will still be pointed directly at the intended object.

Okay.  Let’s switch eyes.  Close your right eye, and open your left.  More than likely, your finger will now be pointing several inches to the right, no longer aimed at the object.  Nearly 70 percent of people are right-eye dominant–when viewing the world, their right eye is in the driver’s seat, directing the line of sight and what they focus on.  It is, in other words, a matter of perspective.

Perspective, sometimes, can become stodgy, routine, set in its ways.  Take Marc Kuslanski.  Of all the characters in The Eye-Dancers, he is the least willing to consider the universe in a new and different way.  For Marc, science and logic are the backbone of all progress, the methods for solving every problem, the vehicle by which we should view the world and consider its possibilities.  For a large portion of the novel, he is completely closed to any considerations of the supernatural, miracles, ghosts–anything that lies outside the purview of natural laws and science.  Any talk of a mysterious “ghost girl” he dismisses–he is the only one of the four main characters in the novel not to dream of her.  No matter how adamantly the others protest and claim the girl is real, Marc won’t hear of it.

His is a fixed, ironclad stance, one that he must somehow overcome before novel’s end.  Can he bend?  Can he open his mind, and look at the world through a different lens, from a different perspective?  His very survival will ultimately depend on it.

I find it’s much the same in writing–especially writing a long work such as a novel.  Before I begin, I have a direction in mind, a path I’d like to follow.  I don’t draft chapter-by-chapter outlines, but I have a fairly clear idea what I want to accomplish in a particular chapter before I sit down to write it.  At the same time, however, I always remind myself not to get too locked in, not to be so tunnel-visioned as to miss the hints and urgings of what the characters on the page are doing.

It is a remarkable and mysterious phenomenon the way characters–your own creations!–often talk to you, and tell you what to write.  In The Eye-Dancers, I never planned for Marc Kuslanski and Mitchell Brant to become friends.  When the book opens, they know each other as classmates, nothing more.  They share some of the same classes, pass each other in the halls–that’s the extent of their relationship.  Of course, I knew the events in the novel would force them to interact more.  They, along with Joe Marma and Ryan Swinton, are transported to the variant town of Colbyville and must find a way back home, after all.  They need to get past their differences and work together.  But I didn’t intend for Mitchell and Marc to have such a strong rapport.  The more they interacted, the more I realized–these two are becoming friends.  I had to listen to them.  I had to shift my perspective.  The characters demanded it.  If I had stuck rigidly to my initial plan–my right-eye-dominant point of view, if you will–a major development in The Eye-Dancers would have been lost.

It is the same with any creative endeavor.  We need to stay amenable to the unexpected, open to the accidental discovery.  Alexander Fleming did not clean up his workstation one day back in 1928.  When he later returned, he noticed that a fungus had grown on some of his cultures.  He also noticed that bacteria didn’t seem to thrive near these cultures.  From this mishap, penicillin was discovered.  But if Fleming had not been observant, if he’d been unwilling to take note of a vital clue provided in the aftermath of his own sloppiness, he may have missed the chance at medical history.

penicillin

 

Sometimes we need to actively choose to alter our perspective.  I experience this on a regular basis.  At the moment, in the uplands of central Vermont, where I live, the hills are still a patchwork of faded green and white.  The battered dirt roads are flanked on either side with mud-streaked March snow.

vtmud

And I find myself frustrated.  Will spring never arrive?  But then I pause, take a breath.  Of course it will.  In the meantime, there is still much beauty to be found in the bare simplicity of the landscape, the tang of the morning air, the song of a red-winged blackbird newly arrived from its winter migration.

vermontspring

 

redwing

 

Switching lenses, from my right eye to my left, I feel lucky to live in the Green Mountain State, even in March.  Looking at the hills and rolling meadows, the slumbering farm fields and the sap buckets hanging from bare maple trees, I wish I’d brought my camera along.

maple

 

Suddenly, as if by magic, it feels like I’ve stepped into a postcard.

Thanks so much for reading!

–Mike

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