Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Quantum Mechanics

When I was in college, I took a physics class for non-science majors. If filled a couple of requirements and the TA was soooo hot. It wasn't a particularly challenging class, concepts such as inertia, energy, mass and how they work together aren't hard to grasp. Figuring out the trajectory of a Ferrarri hurling down an alpine road really isn't tough. But my professor took it a step further. He decided to teach liberal arts students about quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics encompasses theories and ideas involving the speed of light, the theory of relativity and time. Quantum theory works to explain the behavior of molecules and atoms with relation to energy and mass. Anyway, it is very complicated and simply beyond my scope. I remember problems presented where we had to figure out how old an astronaut would be when he returned to earth if he traveled at the speed of light for a certain number of days. I didn't get it most of the time.

But every once in awhile, a light bulb would go off and I would get it, but I couldn't maintain my understanding. Sometimes I feel the same way about writing. I understand the basics, know the "rules," feel comfortable with the concepts of writing and the craft. But I have a hard time grasping the mystery of a good piece of writing; that indefinable element to a story which makes it unique. And I recognize it when I see it. I cringe at the majesty of it, how that writer captured the spark and I wonder how they did it. I'm sure they scratch their heads and wonder themselves.

To add to the confusion, other people don't see the spark in the same way. Where I see brilliance, others see nothing and vice-versa. I've had cp's comment on a particular passage in my writing they find exceptional and I have to shake my head.

I guess writing, like an unstable atom is hard to understand. The rules are open to interpretation and the formula if followed because simple, traditional physics. But to make it special, to lift it to the level of wonder takes something else, an understanding that goes beyond the norm. And so I search for it, hoping my mind will open and like the theory of relativity, I will get it.


Anonymous said...

Sometimes I think there are no rules. We just make it up as we go! :)

Anonymous said...

I felt that way when I read my first Kristen Hannah book. I was so into the characters so early in the book. I could feel for them, cry with them. But when you just looked at the sentences, you couldn't figure out HOW she did it. WHY those characters were SO THERE. It really did feel like some indefinable elements, some mystery of great writing. How did she make it so special??

Melissa Amateis said...

This is where I sometimes freeze up when I write. I want to create those beautiful passages, but in the process, I stifle myself. Which is what happened last night at my writing session. *grin*

Amy said...

Good comparison! I guess if there was a solid answer, we'd all be doing it, huh? Maybe this goes under the same category as computers and air conditioners (for me)...magic. :)

Anonymous said...

I think it must be as hard to explain as it is to do! Maybe that's why Nora never does craft workshops.

Tess said...

Cool analogy, Rene! Really cool, in fact. Hopefully enough people will see the spark my stories create (assuming they make sparks *g*).

LOL re the prof who tried to teach you guys Quantum Mechanics. It's way beyond me, but my dh took that course two years ago and was thrilled to pass it (he was doing it part time while working two jobs).

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

A lady from my writing chapter always says about how some people enjoy certain books and others don't, "To each his own."

Same with writing and grasping atoms! = ) Thanks for the link, Rene!