Wednesday, August 7, 2013
I’m happy to report some writing-related progress this summer that has wedged its way in between camping, rodeos and Rockies games. Frankly, I’m surprised—summer’s not usually a productive period for me.
I attribute this to weeds.
My husband and I moved to a rural property last fall. This summer we decided to let the majority of the property grow whatever it wants to grow, but we’re taking a stand against the Russian thistle (a.k.a tumbleweed) that likes to crowd in close to our house.
Whenever I get stuck during a writing session, I head outside and pull thistle. While I bend and pull, my back-burner brain fires up. Pretty soon, my fictional characters are arguing with each other, or an essay topic taps me on the shoulder, or the missing piece of a narrative arc curves into place. Eventually I have to head inside to write down all the words. Something happens in the sunshine that doesn’t often happen in front of my laptop.
What is this thing that’s going on?
Author Jill McCorkle touched on it during a workshop. She said she works in her flower garden until, like a sponge, she fills up with story. Then she goes to her writing room and squeezes it all out. She also said that in the South, the only way you can get away with dawdling, for women, is to garden, and for men, to go fishing. I thought that was pretty funny.
Good old genius Albert Einstein mentioned the phenomenon: “I take time to go for long walks on the beach so I can listen to what is going on in my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a work day and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.”
Prolific crime writer Lawrence Block, author of Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers calls it “creative procrastination.” He claims his initial story ideas evolve in his subconscious as he goes about his daily chores. Jotting down a few notes is all he does until he feels the story is ready to be written.
The common denominators for a creative procrastination activity seem to be that it doesn’t entertain (like TV watching), usually involves movement, and shouldn't require a lot of concentration.
The good news is that in addition to getting some writing done, I am making headway against the tumbleweeds. The better news is that come fall, the Wyoming wind will blow in a new herd of tumbleweeds from the west, each one dropping seeds that will germinate next spring. So, I’ll be pulling weeds and creatively procrastinating for years to come.
What’s your favorite way to creatively procrastinate and let your subconscious do its thing?