The blog that you are reading now started as a blank page. Well, not completely blank – there was the blinking cursor. That cursor: SO ANNOYING. Blinking and blinking and blinking – so insistent. It’s that cursor more than anything that gets me writing. Well, that and a lot of thinking. Ninety percent of writing is thinking.
To someone watching, it may look like I’ve finally lost my marbles and I’m just staring into space waiting for the mothership to come and get me. It makes people uncomfortable, I think, to see someone in a social context explicitly not interacting with anyone. But who cares what anyone thinks? It’s me doing the writing, not them. This is why so many writers like to lock themselves up for a time until the writing is done or they put on some earbuds and forget the world around them if they’re in a public space. Me, I’m kind of a visual-hound so I can’t even do the earbud thing (every time a see movement in my periphery I have to look up – kind of like a dog doing the whole “Squirrel!” thing). I need a quiet, private space to gaze out into nothingness for a time.
So what happens when a writer is “looking into space?” I’m no neurologist, but I conjecture that this is the precise moment where the subconscious is trying to hand over the reins to the cognitive portions of our psyche. I think that’s why I feel transported and why I’m not fully aware of my surroundings when I’m doing this. I can already hear someone complaining, “Oy! What’s all this ‘looking into space’ gibberish on about? Yer just talking about daydreaming, aren’t ya?” Why that someone is an Englishman is anybody’s guess, but he does bring up a good point: what’s the difference between what a writer does and what anybody does when they’re daydreaming?
The key difference is that when a writer is thinking, she is plumbing the depths of her subconscious for connections and context. Daydreaming is sort of random and chaotic – even the most vivid daydreaming. When a writer is thinking, he is considering and weighing. This takes discipline. Believe me, it’s so easy to go from “thinking” to “daydreaming” because the line between the two is entirely in your mind. But, having said that, the exercise of thinking is essential to shaping one’s own discipline for writing because it’s precisely in this space that the struggle for words and meaning takes place.
David McCullough once said, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.” So the next time your boyfriend/mother/roommate/wife/kids/boss accosts you and says, “What the hell are you doing?” You look right back and say, “I’m writing.” Then return to your deep deep thoughts.
Posted by Paul Yim