Throughout the project, and particularly when it came to the title, I kept thinking of Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways – the classic book about design and lateral thinking. This is more like the Art of Writing Sideways.
It’s a head-hurting form of writing. Analogies usually happen by serendipity – they occur naturally in conversations or in the course of thinking deeply about a subject. So to sit down and generate analogies mechanically is a weird process. But I found it’s like a concentrated version of what happens in creative thinking generally.
You take an issue like ‘secure socket layer’ or ‘wiki’ and that becomes your anchor point, like the end of the compass that stays in the centre of the page. Then you move the other end of the compass in a slow circle, passing through lots of areas – household objects, films, fairy tales, sports, games, cities, the natural world, pop culture, human interactions. All the while your mental compass is scanning through these worlds and trying to find matches back to the term at the centre.
When a match occurs, you try to capture the analogy in a single sentence and then expand as needed. Some colour and humour adds to its memorability and jaggedness. A good analogy can serve a twofold role – it’s partly about explaining the issue, and also about making it linger in the mind.
Fairytales are a rich source of analogies: