Writers and the value of doing nothing

Do Nothing

[…] A writer is working when he is staring out of the window. — Burton Rascoe.

I’ve been frustrated at the keyboard lately, struggling to get the tone of “The Mountain of Dempsey Molehill” right. After several weeks of experimenting with different solutions, I’ve decided it’s time to do nothing.

By doing nothing, I can solve my problem.

What I mean by doing nothing:

I used to spend an hour or two a day walking circles around a rock garden, or sitting on a plank-and-rope swing, or staring out a school bus window. There was no multitasking or dwelling on what needs to be done next — just sitting or strolling, doing nothing but thinking.

Saturday night, I was lying on the futon with my Writer’s Digest. At some point, without realizing, I put the magazine down and started staring off at the wall. But I wasn’t seeing the wall. I was seeing Dempsey’s neighborhood, and his family, and his school. I was seeing these through Dempsey’s eyes, and listening to explanations in his voice.

After I mentally worked my way through a plot tangle and came up with a couple of blog post ideas, it occurred to me I should jot them down in my journal. As I stood up, I realized I had spent the past 40 minutes doing nothing.

It’s the most productive 40 minutes I’ve had in weeks.

These past few weeks have been busy, to say the least. The husband and I took a trip to Pittsburgh, then I came home to a few major projects for my day jobs (including designing two magazines, a high school football preview, and a cruise night preview). The opportunities to do nothing have been few and far between.

But those moments of untethering the mind are critical to the creative process. Sometimes the most productive writing time and book planning time is when we give ourselves a break from the screen or notebook.

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. — Agatha Christie

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2 Responses to Writers and the value of doing nothing

  1. trishafaye says:

    I LOVE this! I think I need to spend more time doing nothing.
    Thanks for this today.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Writers and the value of doing nothing — Julie Stroebel Barichello | Author | Writer's Zen Blog

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