I’ve seen a lot of my more tech-minded friends talk of “cloud computing” recently, which is something I have only the vaguest understanding of. But that's okay, because I have my own idea of what the “cloud” is. To me, it’s the invisible something that writers can draw from.
In one of my (long ago) college critical theory classes, we talked about the idea of all authors having an antenna that is always on, always picking up signals from the wider world. This has always stuck with me. Authors have finely tuned observational powers, which always astonish me, and sometimes they are able to observe more than what they can see/hear/smell/taste/touch. Sometimes their observations stretch into that cloud. That’s how some elements and themes can end up in a work even when the author may not consciously intend it. And how there are certain themes that a number of different authors end up writing about at the same time. The most noticed recent example is probably the Kristin Cashore and Suzanne Collins books. Graceling and The Hunger Games both had characters with similar names (Katsa and Katniss), who had to confront killing other characters in the course of their stories. And now, the companion/sequel to each has the word “fire” in it. It’s odd coincidences like these that make me believe in the cloud. I see it often in submissions, too. It’s always interesting to get a number of submissions from different kinds of writers, who are all in different parts of the countries and writing about different characters and plots, that somehow have intersecting elements.
To me, that’s the magical part of writing. Somewhere out there, invisible to the rest of us, all of these stories exist, all of these ideas, emotions, and people whom we readers need to help us make sense of the world, of life, even when we might not know exactly what we needed. And authors are tapping into that cloud, giving those stories to us, maybe sometimes without even being aware of it themselves. It’s a pretty amazing gift, if you ask me.