A friend of mine passed along an article about Serendipity that was published recently in the New York Times (see here). We were discussing the article in the context of innovation, and coming up with new ideas for businesses. However, my immediate impression when reading the article was one of recognition, because serendipity is actually how 95% of my short stories come together. Let's just define the word for a moment. According to the Oxford English Dictionary serendipity is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. It generally happens in my writing via one of two ways. First, as I'm writing (or re-reading in my first partial review) I spot a few similar words or metaphors that are there by happy accident. When I see them, I have a choice - I can eradicate them, if I think they are distracting, or (frequently) I build on them deliberately, and a new layer of meaning or a subtext unfolds, sometimes  driving the story in a completely different direction.

The second way that I use serendipity has become my standard way of operating. I used to write many of my stories on transatlantic flights, and given that I was frequently in a seat without a power socket, I would find my battery dying before I had finished writing a tale. Then I would have a crazy week or two of meetings, and often new experiences, and then on the flight home I would complete the story. However, what I found was that the intervening period would have provided a new idea or concept for where the story should go next, based on some chance encounter or conversation. I quickly realised that the stories I wrote in this manner were better than those that were completed in a single session. So now, even though I fly far less frequently, and laptop batteries are much more powerful (and sockets a little easier to come by), I deliberately pause my writing at a certain point, and come back to it a few days later. This lets the serendipity process brew in the background. I do have one or two stories that never move forward, but the vast majority of tales are completed within a fortnight, and are much stronger thanks to this approach. 

I feel certain that I’m not the only writer that deliberately uses serendipity to feed the creative muse. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the majority of authors are naturally adept at using serendipity. So if there is to be a scientific study on the process and techniques of serendipity, I suggest the academic research firms start with writers. In fact, that gives me an idea for a story...