Think like a writer

The more I write, the more I find myself thinking like a writer when I’m not at the keyboard. Some of my best ideas come when I’m in the shower,  especially when I’ve hit a wall or have a question for my character who gives me a blank stare as an answer.

It’s usually a conscious decision to multi-task like this. I’ll make a mental note of where I’m stuck and carry that with me, like I’m tucking it away in a special fold in my brain. I carry a pocket spiral with me at all times for that little gem that gives me even the slightest nudge of forward motion in my story. I’m delighted whenever this happens. It adds a spring to my step and a sparkle to my eye.

I don’t have the luxury of hours of time blocked off for writing since I’m still working, so this method helps me make the best use of my time. The more I consciously think this way, the more of a habit it becomes.

Even reading the newspaper offers tidbits for my plot and characters. A news story about a woman who abandoned her kids mentioned that she drove a purple Ford Escort. This jumped out at me like a flash. It was the perfect car for the chain-smoking, gambling grandma that my MC’s mother dumps him on.

If I’m not stuck, I still find myself thinking how I would describe something….like the last three leaves on the tree in my front yard. I imagine they are having an argument about who’s going to drop next.

Unexpected unpleasant encounters? Those too are fodder for my writing bag. Recently we found ourselves in a seedy part of L.A. at a rental car agency I found online.  The scruffy looking employee on duty and the repainted cars parked on a side street looked like the repo car business it truly was. While my husband was trying to extricate ourselves from the contract we had with them, I entertained myself with memorizing details. I’ve never seen so much black wrought iron with pointy spikes as I did in L.A.  But I might be able to use this in some future setting.

I’m thinking that this mental multi-tasking is a way of allowing the door to open to the right brain…by keeping my left brain content enough that it’s being all adult and responsible. I’m sure my friend Sid over at the Right Brain Cafe would help me explain this. Which leads me to another question about multi-tasking and women. But maybe I’ll save that for another posting.

If you are a writer, do you have this habit? Do you find it useful? Fun? Or does it get in the way of what you’re trying to do with your responsible left-brain task?

12 thoughts on “Think like a writer

  1. I had a tricky plot problem that solved itself in my brain while I was sitting in a restaurant waiting for some friends. I did not have a notebook or anything with me (at the time, I didn’t even carry a purse) so I borrowed the waitress’ pen and scribbled my notes on a paper napkin. I still have it somewhere. ^_^ I think it’s a good idea to take things in whenever you are. It’s like the writerly brain remembers details that the other parts don’t, and when you need it, that rental car agency will be there for you.

  2. Barbara: I totally relate. As much as I try to carry some form of paper with me, it doesn’t always happen. Thank goodness for paper napkins! I have a whole plot outline on one that my husband and I came up with while eating.

    I often take a hard copy of my ms when we go out to eat. It’s a nice time to relax and talk stuff over without the distractions we have at home running a business.

  3. I really don’t consider myself a writer…such a role would intimidate me.

    I depend on having a message which I have thought about for a long time and spend time researching by browsing the Internet for ideas…I often find others have given more thought to the subject than me and expressed these ideas better than I can.

    Your reference to some of your best ideas when taking a shower triggered associations within me which I may use in a blog…does the flow of water encourage the flow of ideas?

    My favorite time for ideas is when waking up in the morning and while half asleep lie in bed letting my mind to freely associate.

    1. Sid: I figured you would have an interesting take on this, but I hadn’t thought about the flow of water encouraging the flow of ideas. It seems a natural connection though, doesn’t it?

      What do you think about my idea that the if you keep the left brain busy with some mundane task, like driving the car or washing the dishes, that it (left brain) would not notice that the right brain was sneaking in with all kinds of brilliant thoughts?

      Kind of like keeping the teacher distracted at the board so the kids can play behind her back.

      As for your free association while you are still half asleep, you are in good company. That is Ray Bradbury’s favorite time to write. He swears by it…falling out of bed and writing while he still has a foot in the dream world.

  4. Rahmama,

    I would be interested in understanding how you developed the thought of keeping the left brain busy would help promote creative ideas from the right brain…you may be on to something but it would be a new awareness to me.

    I like the idea of focusing on a theme you feel passionate about…this could be Sufism or Rumi and write a fictional story which would express your feelings in everyday language for the general public…this is essentially what I do on my blog.


    1. Sid: I really don’t know where I got that idea. It just came to me and sounded plausible. I haven’t thought about it much until I wrote it down here.

      Maybe someday I will write something more spiritual, sufi related, but I don’t feel ready for that yet.

  5. Sid, I think the flow of water makes creativity flow. I swear I’m going to create a dry-erase (nay, wet-no run) board for the shower, as that is when the best thoughts in the world strike me.

    I have gone as far as writing notes in the steam on the shower door and resteaming the bathroom later to decipher my water streaked ideas. I don’t recommend it!

    Ideas are everywhere. I try to jot them down when I can, but I don’t fret, as I get accosted by ideas constantly. They all try to squeeze in one ear and end up pushing others out the other side. I leave a trail of writing fodder behind me where ever I go!

    I figure something will always be available to use.

    1. I am eagerly awaiting your wet-no run shower board, especially since I have only a shower curtain and no place to write notes.

      Trails of writing fodder. I love the image.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. I wonder if listening to the peaceful sound of flowing water would also be helpful.

    Another factor in the shower experience is that we are free of clothes which can be socially conforming.

    1. Do you mean a recording of water flowing? I would think that would certainly be a good alternative unless you are fortunate enough to live right on a river’s edge or ocean beach.

      You just reminded me that I have a CD I made of ocean waves from a video I recorded a while back. I extracted the audio and repeated it over and over to make a 30 minute ocean experience. It was great.

      In fact, I’m going to go look for that now.

  7. “Being near water, especially moving water, gets ideas to flow… Streams, showers and waterfalls stimulate creativity. To create aha! moments in your life, to capture and expand your insights, for inspiration about the shape of your dreams, get near water, especially moving water.”~ Anne Klauser

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