Albert Einstein claimed he was no more brilliant than the average person; he was able to come up with the great theories of physics because he had more time than most people in which to ponder and let his brain work.
In our modern age, how often do our brains get to just ponder? Sometimes I feel as if the world is so full of noise, stimulation from tv and computers, and the multitude of things that need my attention, just pondering is hard to do.
But I think it is essential. Whether we write, compose music, invent great devices, or interact with other humans, we need down-time for our brains to be their most creative.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the phenomenon where just as you’re falling asleep, all your best and greatest ideas pour into your head. (Some people like to keep notebooks nearby just for such moments.) This demonstrates that our brains’ creativity centers function most voraciously when we stop using the brain for the myriad distractions of our world.
I encourage you to find time to let your brain go wild. Whether you meditate, stare out the window, fold the laundry, or go for a walk—all these moments are the perfect times to let the brain ponder over the issues it needs to solve. Maybe those issues are in your story. Or your finances. Or your business. Or your relationships.
When focused on the writing of stories, I think these moments are the most productive of my writing life. I call it writing all the time. For some reason, when I’m in the shower is one of my best writing times. I let my brain go and it ponders the next step of my novel, a plot point that doesn’t seem to work, how I am going to get two characters to connect, or whatever is going on in my book. Washing dishes, cleaning house, and driving long distances are also times when my brain can work while my hands are doing other things.
I don’t even bother to write any of these thoughts down. I let them percolate for a while before I include them in the story. Because sometimes they don’t actually work, and if I put them down on the page, then I feel more obligated to try to make them work. Instead, if I let them be for a time, more ideas and possibilities come to me. Then I can truly pick those that will fit the story most perfectly.
Don’t let anyone convince you that this isn’t really writing, that writing can only be counted if you’re putting it down in physical, visual words. This is just as much writing as anything. Just as valuable as research. More powerful than taking a class. More intuitive than sleep. In fact, teachers in schools use this as a pre-writing tool. Call it brainstorming if you want. Or brain mining. Or brain mapping. It’s letting the brain just come up with thoughts and letting it ponder them.
So let your brain loose to write all the time.