Unwind the Mind

January 21, 2011

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all had one of these?

I often find, however, that when I’m consciously trying to come up with an idea, whether for a story, or a blog post, or any other form of writing, my box looks more like this:I’ve heard interviews in which authors talk about novel ideas hitting them in one glorious lightning-strike in which plot, characters, and theme flash into existence all at once. I’ll admit, I’m a little jealous. My ideas are more like those old Polaroid snapshots, emerging from a smoky background bit by bit. Is that a face? Hey, look, there’s a tree in the background! What’s that? Oh, I get it, it’s someone at the park!

I find two things help to hurry the development process along. One: asking questions. Most of my notes for novels tend to look like dialogues with myself, one half of my brain asking questions, and the other half attempting to answer them.

The other thing? Walking. I don’t even need a destination. I just amble along, sometimes listening to music I already associate with the project in hand, sometimes just enjoying the wind and the birds. After a few protests, my brain usually goes quiet, content to let my feet take over for a little while. And once it’s quiet, once it’s allowed to turn its attention from all the millions of other things it usually worries about, it begins to play.

It’s like when you send an older toddler upstairs for a “nap.” They probably won’t sleep, but instead, will play with their toys, trying not to be heard. And that’s fine, because they still get down-time, but also some “creativity time” into the bargain.

But I digress. The fresh air and the monotony of putting one foot in front of the other allows time for the subconscious to start fitting things together in new ways, to poke and prod and explore until, like a small child, it rushes up yammering, “Look what I made!!!”

For me, this works particularly well when I’m getting anxious about writing something, or sensing Writer’s Block on the horizon. Let’s face it, I’d much rather be out in the sunshine than staring at a blank computer screen wailing, “Why am I so empty???

Whatever ideas emerge during my walks won’t be perfect. But it’ll have potential. It will be a starting point, another toy to add to the “Idea Box.” And then, once it’s mixed with the ideas already in there… well, who knows where it could lead?




  1. Walking meditations are a wonderful way to silence the chatter of our monkey minds (racing, racing, all the time) and access the well of creativity that lies within.

    • Monkey mind- that’s a perfect way to describe it. Now I’m picturing my mind as a monkey banging on a typewriter… but he’ll only write good things if he’s at least semi-focused. 😛

  2. I’m happy with my monkey mind, considering the alternatives–fish, fungus, worms. . .

    A friend once told me that writing a novel is like driving across the country. If you try to do it all at once, it’s hard, but if you just try to drive a few hundred yards down the road at a time, you’ll get there.

    • That’s exactly how I felt writing my novel: like I was driving down the highway at night. I couldn’t see more than a few dozen metres ahead, but that was enough to get me there safely.

  3. I find that driving helps me as do the destination-less walks. Anything to get my mind off the here and now and in to the “HEAR” and NOW” that my muse likes to play with. She likes to be given time where she can play quietly in her room, what a perfect description you gave…but then when she is ready to share, I better be ready to work!

  4. LOL. I love your illustrations. 😛 I love to travel for this reason. I like to stare out the car window and watch the landscape change–and then suddenly I have all sorts of ideas running in my head. 😀 Of course, someone else has to drive. XD

  5. I find that when I ‘wait for ideas to hit me’ they almost never do. Instead I have to go out, hunt them down, and then drag them back to my computer where I can then begin to work on making the idea and actual work of fiction. One thing that helps me is world-building. I’m more of a world-builder than a storyteller and so most of my stories come out of my world-building, which then adds more depth to the world, which then leads to new stories. If I can get a good start it can snowball pretty well sometimes and I wind up with a lot of little flash fiction pieces and short stories.


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