Working with Fred

Never underestimate what can be made in the basement.

Those of you have read Damon Knight’s Creating Short Fiction are likely familiar with the concept of Fred:

“Unconscious” is a lousy term, by the way–it isn’t unconscious, it just has trouble communicating. “The silent mind” would be better, maybe, or “the tongue-tied mind,” but I prefer to call it “Fred.”

“To be productive, Fred needs a lot of stimulating input–odd facts or fancies to knock together, insights, specimens, interesting data of all kinds.”

I write about this now, because I’ve been feeding Fred over the last few days. He doesn’t know it, but I’ve peeked in on him working away while I walked the dog or drove to the store or washed the dishes.

I’ve been revising a short story and I’m relying on Fred to help me round things out and give a sense of wholeness to the story. To that end, I’ve been feeding Fred bits of this and that to see what he churns out. He’s all about production. The more he churns out, the more likely there is to be a nugget of goodness in there.  So I keep feeding him and wouldn’t you know it, Fred has been busting his hump.

Stephen King, in On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft referred to his muse this way:

There is a muse… He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level… You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. Do you think this is fair? I think it’s fair. He may not be much to look at, that muse-guy, and he may not be much of a conversationalist (what i get out of mine is mostly surly grunts, unless he’s on duty), but he’s got the inspiration.”

Hm. Fred and this basement guy seem to have an awful lot in common. Maybe Fred is the basement guy’s name. Or at the very least, they play pinochle and swill Schlitz together on the weekends.

Who’s your muse? Where do you draw your inspiration? Fairies? Homonculi? Aliens? I wanna know.

This guy’s not a bad muse. Just saying is all.

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Jonathan

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11 2010

2 Comments Add Yours ↓

yashfa

  1. 1

    I loved this, Jonathan. I’d not read Damon King’s Creating Short Fiction, but I dig Fred big time. That resonates and make sense.

    Muses. I like to picture mine lying on a pink comforter with her feet in the air, flipping through a Seventeen magazine, and smoking cigs with the window open on a freezing day. She’s listening to music.

    More so than that, she sees what I don’t, catalogs it. She’s a twerpy girl who pokes me in the shoulder saying, “How about that? Now? How’s that feel? Can you do it now?”

    While my everyday work involves busy hands, she keeps my mind busy with randomness.

    • 2

      Nice image work there. It’s right on. Good think I don’t have to rely on my waking brain for everything. I’m tired enough as it is. Glad you enjoyed it.


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