Incubation and the flat rabbit

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a book written by Bárdur Oskarsson…

Even though I’m a fully grown adult, I love children’s literature. Young adult novels, such as the ones written by John Green, enthral me. Even picture books can captivate.

Although I haven’t yet read The Flat Rabbit by Bardur Oskarsson, I feel as though I have after Maria Popova’s magnificent summary in a recent Brain Pickings column.

The gentle story of a dog and a rat who come upon a rabbit flattened in the middle of a road, The Flat Rabbit is a meditation on death. The animals wonder what to do to help their flattened friend. Finally, the dog comes up with an unique idea. Here is the Popova comment that impressed me:

Embedded in the story is a subtle reminder that ideas don’t come to us by force of will but by the power of incubation as everything we’ve unconsciously absorbed clicks together into new combinations in our minds. As the dog sits straining his neurons, we see someone flying a kite behind him — a seeming aside noted only in the visual narrative, but one that becomes the seed for the rabbit solution.

The animals affix the body of the rabbit to a kite. If you see the illustrations (have a look, here!), you’ll understand what sense this makes. But I particularly appreciate the way Popova highlights the value of incubation. If we writers can remember to spend some unencumbered time — with no direct effort on our writing — before addressing the keyboard, we’re far more likely to succeed.

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