Time to Think

It seems to me that the rarest commodity in the world today is not oil or gold or silver.  The rarest commodity of all is Time. And the rarest of all Time is time to think.  Time to think is rarer than the rarest of gemstones, my friends. But if you are going to be a writer, then you are going to need to cultivate it.

It’s hard to push away the demands of life to clear out some thinking time. It’s especially hard if you have a full-time job, or a full-time family, or both. But it must be done if you want to be a writer.  It’s been my observation that writing is 75% thinking and 25% actually putting the words on paper in the right order. It’s probably more like a 90/10 ratio.  Plus, whether you want to be a writer or not, thinking time just plain makes you a better person.

Here are a few suggestions I’m trying to put into practice in my own life to “clear away the thickets in the deadwood of my mind,” as Elizabeth Peters’s character Amelia Peabody puts it.

1. Turn off the television and radio.  In my opinion, this is one of the most important things you can do to create some thinking time.  Thinking is listening inside yourself. You can’t do that if somebody else’s words and images are constantly filling your mind. You need the silence to hear what you are thinking, and to think about what you are thinking about. Plus, if you’re like me, when the television is on you’re just sitting staring at it with a dumb look on your face. And how many ads can they have in a half-hour anyway?

Just a side note on this one – sometimes I find myself with thought patterns that are not healthy. When this happens, I do play music to pull my thoughts into a different place. For me, I find that Baroque music works wonderfully well.  One of my teachers many years ago told me that because Baroque is very symmetrical  and almost mathematical in style, it helps your brain calm down. I find that this is true in my case, so I just thought I’d throw it out there. You guys might calm down to Def Leopard, and that’s fine (although I do question your taste).

2.  Step away from the internet and video games.  Surfing the net, staring at social media sites, and/or playing addictive video games pulls you outside yourself.  But thinking time is all about being internal, not external. Plus, these are just distractions and they waste the time you’ve gone to so much trouble to set aside.

3.  Meditation in motion.  There’s no way I can say “Okay I’m going to think now” and just sit and thiiiiiinnnnnkkkkk.  I’d fall asleep. On the occaisions when I’ve tried to do it, I just end up thinking about everything I have to do that day.

For me, most of my thinking time happens while I’m doing other things. I’ve done some primetime quality thinking when I’m doing household chores, or yard-work, or when I take a walk.  I try to have pads of paper and pens stashed strategically around the house in case I get an inspiration in the middle of, say, folding laundry. And I’ve been known to leave the lawn mower and rush in to type up something I thought about while sweating over my yard.

Your mind is a marvel and your only resource as a writer. Give it some time to breathe. Take a break and stop trying to shove things into it. Give it some time to tell you what it’s been up to all day. Who knows what wonderful things are crammed up in there just waiting to spew out?

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Comments

  1. Great post, Betsy! Glad to see there’s another author out there who usually requires silence to write. That’s me ~ but maybe I’ll give some background Baroque a try. Any recommendations? Although I usually need quiet, the rest of the household doesn’t…Congrats on your upcoming release:-)!

    • Betsy Horvath says:

      Thanks, Ursula!!! When I’m listening to baroque, I usually have on Yo Yo Ma’s “Simply Baroque” and “Simply Baroque II”, which are wonderful compilations. I LOVE Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”, and pretty much anything by Mozart. But if I’m trying to actually write while the music is playing, I stay away from the more exuberant stuff because it’s just playing to help take me to another place. There are those who think I’m in another place anyway 🙂

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