Critical Mass

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Critical mass is commonly defined as the amount of fissile material needed to sustain nuclear fission. It’s an interesting concept and one which doesn’t have to be reserved for that alone.

It could also refer to the point in any situation where something acquires enough momentum of its own to become unstoppable.

And I’m there again now.

Many years ago, back in the time when I struggled to write a letter home after a month spent crossing the Pacific ocean, I never got to that stage with any words put on paper. As long as I had written a bit I was happy, relieved to have done it. I used to get long interesting letters from my wife and family and wondered at the apparent ease that they were produced.

I watched as my wife would spend an hour or two writing to people, it seemed to flow, like a river and I asked her about how she did it. “I’m in the zone,” she said, “and it just comes out.” I never really understood at the time, ‘lucky her,’ I thought.

Fast forward….. I’m writing now, I don’t know where the inspiration came from, one day I just sat down and started typing.  And I found that as I did so, just occasionally the story would flow like I had seen in Yvonne’s letter writing sessions. It just kept coming and in the end, I had written things that I didn’t remember thinking or planning.

And that brings us back to critical mass.

In every idea there seems to be a certain mileage, sometimes I will write a thousand words, or two thousand and realise that the idea had nowhere else to go. It’s a Short Story or a Flash Fiction. That’s not to say that it isn’t any good, it just is what it is, complete and that’s fine.

Sometimes it just keeps going to twenty thousand words or so and then a strange thing happens. It develops a life of its own and nothing you can do stops it as it carries on. You think it’s done and another idea springs up to extend the plot or amplify a chapter. It starts to write itself, all you have to do is keep pressing the keys. Before you know it you’ve passed another ten thousand words almost without expending any effort.

My present work is one of those stories.

That’s critical mass and it’s wonderful.

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