Have you seen this illustration?

According to Wikipedia, “Friedrich Schumann is often credited with the discovery of illusory contours around the beginning of the twentieth century, however illusory contours are present in art dating to the Middle Ages. They evoke the perception of an edge without a luminance or color change across that edge. Illusory brightness and depth ordering frequently accompany illusory contours.

It’s odd, but when I first Googled Friedrich’s name, the first hit was for a serial killer of the same name. I wonder if that had any impact on either one of them turning out as they did?

By Fibonacci - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1788215

By Fibonacci – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1788215

In the graphic above, you ‘see’ a white triangle between the three black Vs and the Pacman-like almost circles. However, our minds fill in the blanks – sort of like Nature abhorring a vacuum.

They are illusory or subjective contours, constructed in such a way that the eye and the mind are fooled into seeing what’s not there. Seeing these drawings reminded me of how our minds fill in the blanks when inspiration flees and we have nothing constructive to think about. It’s so easy to waste time, isn’t it? Hell, it will soon be April.

By Robert P. O'Shea - Modification of Image:Ehrenstein figure.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3055851

By Robert P. O’Shea – Modification of Image:Ehrenstein figure.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3055851

In university, we used to ‘play’ with them in Psychology class. Honestly, I think some of the profs were just messing with us. There are legitimate uses – sometimes eye doctors or vision scientists use them to test perception as they try to identify eye problems.

The weed smokers back in the day used swirling black and white circles or jaggedly rainbow concoctions to augment brain-addling properties of the smoke. You are growing sleepy….you are seeing visions….

When I looked at them, all I wanted to do was barf. I found the swirls disturbing and disorienting even without inhaling anything.


Why do I raise this topic? Because I’ve just spent a month away from my writing, on purpose. The advice I received was that simply nibbling at the edges of 109,000 words wasn’t good enough. My trusted beta readers said there was too much going on – keep it simple. A published author I respect said, take out one story line’.

Once I got my breath back, I realized they were both right. In my efforts to follow my (male) mentor’s advice and keep laying on action and conflict and emotion, I had crammed in too much to make for an easy read. Plus, I’m not writing a take on Joseph Campbell’s/Chris Vogler’s Hero’s Journey but following the tropes of Kim Hudson’s Virgin’s Promise, because yes, my novel is a story “of Feminine Creative, Spiritual, and Sexual Awakening“.

My heroine is a 42 year old woman who’s tidy suburban life is turned upside down when her mother dies suddenly and her husband finds his soul-mate at Bible study class. After cussing him out in Italian, she finds herself half an orphan, divorced and houseless. Does she crawl into a corner swigging Chablis and munching chocolates? No, no, no. She reinvents herself.

In my original draft, I had her searching for a father she didn’t know she had. But once I chopped that story line from my novel, I was down to 62,000. As my author-friend said, what I deleted forms the guts of book two. Which makes me happy, since the third one in the series is half written.

But after I made the initial cuts, it was like the energy had gone from my writing. Maybe it was the long expanses of dark crappy weather, but now that I can sit at my workstation again and look out into the yard and see green instead of sheets of ice, and watch the birds building nests under the deck outside my window, I feel refreshed. With the snow gone form the sidewalks, I can resume my daily walks, and come home bursting with inspiration.

So no more farting around wasting days surfing the ‘Net’ or (horrors) ironing or re-arranging closets. I’m back writing again.