It looks like I’m not doing anything

It looks like I’m not doing anything

My family has an uneven track record for giving me space while I’m writing. I get better results when I retreat to my writing grotto in the basement, but sometimes I want to be above ground, enjoying radiation from the sun. Once I’m visible, I’m vulnerable to interruption. Having some kind of writing artifacts in front of me sometimes helps – I can gesture to my notebook or printed pages and say, “I’m working now, can I get back to you?”  It would help if I were more consistent about that, rather than eroding my own space by giving in to interruptions.

But what about the work I do that doesn’t look like work? I think at least 60% of the creative work I do is done in my head, without a pen in hand or a keyboard under my fingertips. I might be staring at clouds or at a group of branches shifting and swaying in response to the wind. That’s what’s going on physically. Mentally, I might be considering how to describe the way the wind changes the way light hits those leaves and branches. Or I maybe seeing that shifting pattern of light and extrapolating it into a signaling system utilized by aliens on a distant planet. Or magical creatures living in the trees. Who knows? I certainly can’t predict what thoughts will occur to me when I give myself time to sit and observe with my mind wide open.

Those quiet moments are creative work time, too. Without those moments of observation and free association, I wouldn’t have raw material available when it’s time to sit down to write. I find some of the most interesting connections and inspirations just walking around observing without an agenda.

I understand that it’s hard for anyone outside my brain to understand what’s going on when I look like I am doing nothing. I also know that ‘doing nothing’ time is probably the most valuable time for my creative process and sanity.

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