This Fallow Ground
Recently, I read an article over on WriterUnboxed about the importance of doing nothing. The author, Robin LaFevers, talked about how many times writers may look like they aren’t doing much of anything. Yet, they are subconsciously working out the plot or character arc of their next book. She stressed that these times of apparent inactivity are important to the creative mind and they are not truly inactive. Our brains are busy busy busy getting us ready to actually write. She urges us to give ourselves permission to stare at the wall and let this process happen.
I agree 100%. Sometimes we have to just let those ideas percolate. Even famous and prolific authors like Stephen King or Danielle Steele can’t write 24/7. They need to let the brain rest and recharge.
That is where I am going to take staring at the wall one step further. I think it is equally important for writers and other creatives to pursue other pastimes that use different creative muscles than writing. For some, this could mean running, playing sports, horseback riding, gardening, or like me, you could take up quilting or crocheting.
I find that when I am in the moment with a pile of fabric and the hum of my sewing machine my mind is usually full of my story in progress. It is truly the perfect zen state for me to work through any idea issues or story snags that I have come across in my writing. The same holds true with crochet. If I am working on an afghan or scarf, once I get the pattern going, I cruise along and disconnect from the task at hand. It creates a meditative motion and I am able to zone out and think about my book.
I think that is a lot of what the author at WriterUnboxed was getting at – You need to allow yourself time to think about your project. Set the pen down. Step away from the keyboard and let it just simmer a bit. You can’t constantly be moving that pen or typing those words.
It is the exact opposite of the mentality I usually maintain during November – National Novel Writing Month. A typical November will see me tapping away at any free moment, filling the screen with my daily word quota. There is a certain zen feeling about NaNo too but you don’t have the luxury of time to think about your story. In NaNo, you throw everything down on the page and sort it out later. In NaNo, I have found that the greatest relief from the stress of the day job is to go home, grab my Alphasmart Neo or laptop and lose myself in my story.
I did not do NaNo this year. Too much going on with editing and formatting. I don’t regret the decision as I know adding NaNo to my plate would have sent me screaming right on down to the Crisis Center in town. Still, though, a small part of my heart is missing the adrenaline rush as thousands of folks start to cross that 50K finish line.
I am grateful that I had the foresight to realize this and to set aside some moments this month to let myself play and let my mind lie fallow.
Fallow ground is left unsown for a period in order to restore its fertility as part of a crop rotation. And a creative mind benefits from fallow periods too.
How do you plan your fallow season? Do you take time between projects? Or, do you make sure you take a day each week to let your mind wander and recharge?