Above all, style is somehow the beginning of writing: however timidly, by committing itself to great risks of recuperation, it sketches the reign of the signifier.
—Roland Barthes, Roland Barthes
Like events are drawn to one another—Jung recognized the richness of these potentially mysterious connections, and described them as examples of “synchronicity.” Significantly, these connections are not causally related, as are events that take place within our realm of logical understanding (i.e., I turn the knob and a door opens). Rather, synchronous connections are, as Jung suggested, highly idiosyncratic “meaningful coincidences,” with different connections occurring to different people.
Those who are highly sensitive to such connections are often considered disordered by mental health practitioners—yet this kind of careful attention (for that is what it is) may serve seekers of good fortune and good prose especially well. On the other hand, superstition is patently useless. In the latter, general rules are formed, codified, and become fossilized: about the number thirteen, about black cats, about cracked mirrors, and so forth. These are blindly followed for no reason other than cultural tradition, which, as we have seen through the bloody millennia, is always the worst reason to do anything. Superstitions are, like the severed rabbit’s foot that embodies them, dead, a mere artifact of no great use to either its current or previous owner.
May your writing style be congruent with your self. The seeker of good prose—who is quiet, who watches and listens, who remembers, who remains present—is quite often superstitious, but their superstitions are their own. In casinos, I have seen many times at the roulette wheel persons who play only Even numbers, or persons who play only Odd. Others play their birthdates and those of their loved ones—some only play Zero or Double Zero. Those who are successful are connected to their superstitions in a way that is alive. It is important to bear in mind that the signifier expresses its meaning through the player. The Odd player prefers the askance, the out-of-place, the missing, the mysterious. They may throw the dice in craps with their left hand. The Even player prefers unity, order, symmetry—a straight path through. Then there are those who play the Zeros—who play against the rest of the table. These are the misanthropes, the anti-social, or the perverse.
We are usually not consciously aware of the relationship between our present self and our writing style. But it is striking to consider that disconnect between the two could lead to poor prose—each influences the other to an extraordinary degree. Yet in this harried age, it is often said that we no longer know ourselves. To this end, it may be helpful to meditate over a list of potential signifiers before embarking upon any writing session. My favorites (by no means a complete list) include: Cleanliness, Calm, Precision, Care, Attention, Refinement, Concentration, Focus, Texture, Richness, Congruence, Sharpness, Faith, Dignity, Anticipation, Joy, Connection, Harmony, Holiness, Love, Mystery, Hope, Despair, Beauty, Sadness, Night, Solitude, Clarity, Danger, Risk, Resolve, Forgiveness, Compassion, Goodwill, Absolution, Grace, and Redemption. Consider which concepts resonate, and open unintended doors in your imagination—begin your writing from there.
 Many famous short stories describe the experience of such an individual, such as Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and also Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols.”
Michael Shou-Yung Shum is a PhD candidate in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Tennessee. His most recent work appears in Burrow Press Review, Spolia, and Your Impossible Voice.