Margaret Fieland said:
Sometimes not thinking about a problem is the best way to come up with a solution. When I'm banging my head against a wall, I'll often find that after I "give up" and do something like go out grocery shopping or vacuum the house I'll think of the solution.Thanks, Margaret! It's absolutely true, and it's something that psychologists have studied, puzzled over, and proven without being quite sure of the cause: when you're working on a problem, you often solve it precisely when you stop thinking about it. Whether it's the right word for a crossword puzzle or the right way to end your latest story, sometimes putting it aside and thinking about other things can lead you to the answer. It might be because the increased stimulation enables us to put more input into the problem-solving process, or it might be because our unconscious is still able to work away on it while our conscious brains concentrate on something else. Whatever the reason, putting your story aside can sometimes be the best thing for it.
Very interesting post. I've often thought about this myself -- some of that daydreaming, staring-out-the-window time ends up being highly productive. And I have noticed that when I become overly focused on being productive as an end in itself, I can wind up wasting time on unnecessary activities in order to feel "busy." I also agree with Margaret's comment that taking a mental break from a problem is sometimes the best way to solve it.N.T. brings up another great point: that busy work isn't necessarily the best way to be productive. In today's world, we often feel pressure to be doing something productive every single minute of ours days. Elaborate systems like GTD, for example, want us highly organized and ready to fill every slice of ours days with productive activities. What that can lead to, however, is doing the easy repetitive tasks more and more just because it's work to do. In the meantime, the work that needs thought and analysis gets pushed aside. I say let's remember that the big tasks in the creative process don't need an itemized checklist.
Charlotte Rains Dixon said:
For writers, there is a fine balance between allowing the brain to wander or refilling the well, and simply wasting time. With the onset of social media and the need to spend time on the internet marketing oneself, it is so easy to get distracted and not get anything done.Thanks, Charlotte. Here, Charlotte points out another piece of the "wasted time" problem: there are so many unproductive ways to waste time these days. So many things pull at our attention that it's difficult to shut off the inane sites and chat windows and just daydream. But I strongly urge you to fight the temptation to twitter for just a minute and try looking out a window. Your fiction will thank you.
In upcoming mailbag posts, I take on how to fight the urge to hibernate, and designing your own creative space. Don't miss it, and be sure to add your comments!