The Pros and Cons of Writing in Your Head
Are you tired of sitting sedately in front of a computer while you write? Why not do what I do and spice things up a bit. For instance, as I write this post, I’m applying a new coat of paint to the guest bedroom. I also like to write as I dust and mop, while I’m gardening and especially during long stints of ironing. Now why, you might ask, would anyone want to complicate matters like this? Why not sit down at your desk and focus on writing instead of trying to do two things at once? There are two answers to this question:
#1. Because I love to write, but my free time is non-existent.
#2. Because I love to write, but I also enjoy a clean house.
Did I mention that I love to write? Were it up to me, I would wile away my days creating clever characters and composing witty repartee, but I am enough of a realist to know that I would not enjoy the lifestyle afforded by my writing income. As a result, I spend my days clerking at the local library. As for my nights and other off hours, I spend an overwhelming amount of time tidying, preparing meals, folding laundry, and mowing lawns, which leaves an underwhelming amount of time to write.
Now some would say that one who was truly a writer, would forgo a shining sink in favor of their craft, and in truth, were I forced to choose between the two pursuits my sink would never sparkle, but luckily that isn’t necessary. I have discovered that not only is it possible to write as I clean, cook, fold and mow, but it’s easy to do.
Let’s say I ‘m performing a mundane task like vacuuming the living room. Left to its own pursuits my brain might begin to consider the deplorable state of the carpet I’m cleaning, and ruminate on how many of my meager paychecks it would take to replace it. Instead of thus plunging myself into the depths of despair, I can redirect my thoughts. I can focus on my next writing project, and begin to organize it in my mind. And so can you.
Maybe you’ve recently read a fascinating book, taken up a new hobby, or discovered a better way of doing things? Could you turn any of that into a short story or magazine article? If you were writing to a friend about your new interest, what would you say, how would you grab their attention? Can you think of a snappy opening sentence? Compose in your head, and before you know it, the housework is finished, and you can race to the computer to put your words down for posterity.
This tendency of mine has two obvious advantages; the first being the elimination of writer’s block. By the time I am finally seated in front of the computer, my mind is overflowing with images and phrases that simply must be recorded. No sitting and staring at a blank screen with this method. Fingers literally fly across the keyboard and the empty screen ceases to intimidate.
Another plus is the fact that multi-tasking makes better use of your time. You can accomplish twice as much when your brain’s downtime is put to good use. If you pay attention, you’d be surprised at how much time you spend thinking about absolutely nothing, or worse, stewing over unsolvable problems. If you train yourself to think productively, you’ll find you spend less time in the twilight zone, and waste fewer moments brooding over things like the tiff you had with your boss. Before long, your overall mental state will improve.
Of course, we all need some downtime. Once in a while, a writer just needs to relax and read a good book or take a nap, but remember, most of us use only one-tenth of our mind’s amazing abilities, as a result, we have a lot of excess brain cells just begging to be utilized. Writing in your head is like taking your brain to the gym. How many times have heard that keeping the mind active and alert is the best way to prevent Alzheimer’s or other degenerative problems? Complex creative thinking is good for you, and the memorization involved in this process is an excellent way to keep your mind razor-sharp. So don’t worry about overtaxing the gray matter. Put some of that extra ninety percent to use and watch what happens.
Part Two – The Cons
As stated before, you can write in your head any time and anywhere, which brings me to the one disadvantage of this activity. If you get too into your thought process, it’s easy to forget where you are or what you’re really supposed to be doing. Example – astounded by the dazzling descriptive passage that has just flashed into my brain, I feverishly attempt to commit it to memory. Neurons race and synapses click until finally the process is complete. Mission accomplished, I blink and realize that I’m standing in front of an open refrigerator, but haven’t a clue as to why. Beware; with this level of potential distraction, one must take precautions. In other words, there are good and bad times to write in your head. For example –
Good Times to Write in Your Head
- While waiting in line at the grocery store.
- While on eternal hold with your cell phone provider.
- While stuck in the doctor’s office with nothing but pharmaceutical catalogs for company.
- While loafing in bed on a Saturday morning. Or during your morning shower. (It’s amazing how articulate you can be when you’re fresh from a good nights sleep.)
- While cleaning house or doing other mundane and repetitive tasks.
There are other times though when you really need to be in the moment. These are:
Bad Times to Write in Your Head
- While discussing your latest budget blunder with your spouse.
- When your brain clicks on at 4:00 in the morning. (You’ll never get back to sleep if you start writing.)
- While performing surgery, controlling air traffic, lifeguarding at the pool, etc. (For – hopefully – obvious reasons.)
- While operating heavy machinery or a motor vehicle – way too dangerous. (It’s one thing to incinerate a batch of cookies because you’re lost in thought, quite another to run a red light.)
Speaking of cookies, it occurs to me that I have a new recipe. A mouth-watering vision of warm cookies begins to penetrate the fog of paint fumes. There’s nothing better than melty chocolate chips and a glass of cold milk. I suddenly realize that my current location – guest room with newly painted walls – has lost its appeal. This brings me to another advantage of writing in your head; it’s a highly mobile activity. In fact, (just to prove the point), I think I’ll put down my paintbrush and go write in the kitchen for a while. Bon appetite!