Thinking About It

I need a lot of off the clock thought to write anything more than a page or two.  Somewhere in the dark, scary recesses of my subconscious, oversize concepts are digested and reassembled, like leaf cutter ants feeding their subterranean fungal colonies.  Dim shapes appear in the ultra-flexible fabric of thought as ideas are juxtaposed and connections are tried and discarded or selected.

Sometimes it is like building a nest.  The pieces come from many places and are of various materials, woven into the written structure so each one depends on the next.  The developing form is built from experience and observation, but the shape is an independent creation; anecdote feeds analogies, and these service explanation and elucidation, but the integrated whole, while sustained by its members, resembles none of them.

Whether the piece I am working on is a research paper, essay, or creative fiction, I seem to require at least as much time on this particular step as on the actual writing itself.  No amount of later organization or revision can make up for lost time in pondering what I am writing, because the substance itself is weaker.

With all of the demands on my time, it is often the demands on my consideration which wreak the most havoc on my tortured writing.  While I can set aside a place and time to write–perhaps even escape the chaos of home and the clammer of work to set words on paper, if I have not expended the time and effort in thought then the product is shallow and leads no where that I care to go.

Chaos and clammer, though, are excellent materials for nest building.  With a bit more space and time for digestion, it could yet produce something interesting.  In the way of “hey, check that out,” rather than “ugh, what did I step in,” I hope.

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  1. Posted 3 August 2009 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I actually benefit greatly from thinking things through before writing them down as well. However I find that these days I use that as an excuse to put off writing for another day, week, month, etc. It is so easy for the dedicated procrastinator to find things to do that aren’t writing.

  2. Posted 3 August 2009 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Yes, that’s a good point.

    I think my initial reaction to my own patterns is that this sounds like procrastination, or even wasting time. But whether it’s done while driving, showering, or waiting in line, most of my actual writing seems to occur in my head before I sit down to type. These days a lot of that time goes to thinking about what to make for dinner or how to fix a problem at work, or what to do about a problem with the kids. I find I have to consciously make sure that I’m thinking about what I’m writing, or I have nothing to say when I actually sit down to do it. I don’t know where the line is between thinking about writing and procrastinating about it, but I hope to be at a place where the lack of pre-think isn’t delaying the writing itself, by incorporating the former into my routine and schedule as well as the latter.

    Thanks for your input.

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