Most of us learned to think linearly when we write. Make an outline, we are usually told. Follow it until you reach your conclusion.
This may work if you are a lawyer. But if you are an artist of any kind, it is a disastrous idea.
The best writing, composing and painting, come from the subconscious, which thinks in images. Images are notoriously non-linear. Dreams, fantasies, visions, visualizations are all charged with emotional energy because they come from deep within.
Chaos Theory demonstrates that no matter how chaotic a system, in time, it does become a coherent system. In other words, even if we write at random, it will become a artistic work. This may be hard to believe but making an outline probably never produced a novel or screenplay. Bradbury, Cameron and others encourage us to write as quickly as we can in order to loosen our writing muscles. In the Tools section, I just listed an exercise from Bradbury’s friend, S. L. Stebel where he suggests writing as quickly as possible and then working from there.
(See Circling Key Words)
To create from chaos takes a lot of trust. If it is too much trust, you can imagine the scenes, put the images on index cards, and then put the cards in order and write from there. Or just start writing. When I wrote my first play, I had the closing scene and little else. The rest just flowed in a way that was magical.
To reach the unconscious you can use dreams, memories, images, vision and fantasies, using another art form like painting, or writing or creating a tune, or writing as quickly as you can, or describing the images that come in a stream to a friend… any of these can help. So can Tarot and other tools that create pictures.
Pictures are not linear– and neither is writing, painting or composing.
Instead make friends with your unconscious.