“What are you doing?”
I glanced back at her, confused at the question. Wasn’t it obvious what I was doing? “I’m working.”
She shook her head. “No you weren’t. That pen hasn’t moved in twenty minutes. You’re supposed to be writing, but all I see is you sitting there staring at the Butterfly garden.”
“Right. I was working a scene out in my head.”
“You looked like you were zoning out.”
“Writing looks like that sometimes.” She stared at me a moment longer before giving up and going inside to allow me to “work.”
The truth is, I was right. Sometimes part of the writing process involves staring off into the distance at what others cannot see. You’re not really seeing whatever it is your eyes are locked onto, but rather you’re focused on an idea that’s germinating inside of your head. A performance of words is happening on the stage of your mind as characters rehearse a scene you may be struggling with. You close your eyes, you picture the setting, you smell the scents surrounding it, and you feel everything your characters would feel. If it doesn’t work the first time, you call, “Cut!” and do it again. You keep doing it until you envision it perfectly, and only then do you open your eyes and write.
To others it may appear as if we are off in LaLa Land, and if our job was anything other than writing they would be correct. However, we’re writers and LaLa Land is where dreams form and grow cohesion. I mention in Procrastinating, Yet Productive that organizing files and balancing your checkbook is all a part of writing. Zoning out is, as well. While our fingers may be taking a break from pecking away at the keys, our brains are still churning with endless possibilities. Imagination is our greatest tool, more so than pen, paper, or computer, and we use it best when we are staring off into space. It’s part of our process.
Coffee has to brew, plants need to germinate, and dough has to rise. Likewise, the writer’s body must zone in order for fresh ideas to come forth into amazing stories. You cannot rush Mother Nature and unless you enjoy bad coffee, you should not hurry along the brewing process. The same is true with great ideas. Don’t rush them along. Allow them to simmer, percolating in the quietness of your mind as you stare at a butterfly garden.
It’s okay to be still. Actually, it’s vital, because only in the quietness can our ideas truly be heard. Furthermore, it’s okay that people don’t understand it. They’re not the artists; you are. You understand that activity doesn’t always mean motion and that sometimes to move forward you have to sit still. Allow them to shake their heads. You keep zoning out and dreaming up new worlds. They’ll benefit in the end and then maybe, just maybe, they’ll understand a little of your process.
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