Believe it or not, a writer staring off into space is hard at work! Writing requires thinking time. Time to formulate new, original thoughts. Time to roll them around and massage them before we bring them forward into the world.
Thinking Creates Balance
There is a yin and yang to creativity. We spend much of our daily lives taking in content from the world around us. Reading blog or social media posts, streaming videos or watching television, listening to songs or podcasts – these are all forms of taking in content. I call this inhaling the ideas of others. Writing is putting our own content out into the world. Exhaling our own ideas. When we breathe, there is a tiny little pause at the end of each inhalation. If you’ve ever done meditation or box breathing, you’ll notice that the masters ask you to prolong or hold that pause. In the craft of writing that is thinking time.
We need to find a balance between the information we take in and the content we create. Constantly absorbing the thoughts of others not only distracts us from our own good work, but it also prevents us from processing what we just learned. Do we agree with those statements? Have we tried them on in our mind? As writers, we have to be careful that we are writing from our unique voice, and that our ideas are our own. We don’t want to just regurgitate unprocessed information.
Where Do Ideas Come From?
They don’t come from the idea fairy. There’s no magical muse doling out ideas to the writers who devotionally sit with butt in chair and hands on the keyboard. If there is, she’s forsaken me! I have covered the notion of combating writer’s block in the past. Essentially, writer’s block is a form of running out of ideas. The best remedy for this is to get out of ‘media consumption mode’ and get into ‘thinking mode’—in the shower, on a walk without music or a podcast in your earbuds, in a rocking chair on the porch. If you are breaking out into hives at the thought of being bored, maybe try doing something with your hands while you think like knitting, gardening or coloring (without the television or radio on).
How Long Do I Have Think?
Here’s the rub. We live in a world of instant gratification, gamified dopamine hits, and distractions galore. Thinking is a throwback to the analog, dial-up way of life. It takes as much time as it’s going to take. You can’t force it and you can’t rush it. You have to just let it be and see what bubbles up. That being said, Cal Newport has written a book called Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World that might just help you learn to focus your thoughts and have the ideas flow more freely.
This is why I love to hike so much. No cell phone service, just me and the scent of the pines filling my lungs as I solve the world’s problems in my mind. Do you need to escape your everyday life for a while and just focus on your thinking and your writing? Join us on the next Writing Retreat in the Mountains.