Dog walking time. It’s good for me. It’s good for my dog, Toto. And it’s good for my brain.
When you’re writing, you may be tempted to bear down and focus hard on the project. That’s necessary, but so is giving your brain time to play. That’s when your brain does some of its best creative work.
Good ideas don’t show up fully formed. Sometimes, they don’t make any sense in the beginning. The best way to turn a good idea into a great one is to let your brain play with it. But first, there are a couple of things you must do.
Capture your good ideas when you get them. Otherwise, they’ll flit away like butterflies on the wind, never to be seen again. It doesn’t matter how you capture them. You can use a pocket notebook or a small digital recorder or make notes on your smartphone. Just capture them. You can’t do anything with your ideas unless you capture them.
Put your new ideas in a form where you can use them. I keep two kinds of files of ideas. One is my general idea file. The other is a specific idea file for a particular project. I review the general file weekly and specific files whenever I work on a project.
At this point, your ideas aren’t only in files but also in your brain. Now, it’s time to put your brain to work.
When you start a new project, whether it’s a blog post, a chapter, or a new book project, gather your ideas. Do a little research. You might even block out some possibilities for how to tackle the project.
Then let it go. Leave the project to your marvelous brain while you do something else. Do something that puts your body on autopilot and lets your brain roam free. Do something that has nothing to do with the project you’re working on. Walking Toto is a good choice for me.
While you’re not digging in and concentrating on your project, your brain is still working on it. It plays with your ideas, connects them to things you haven’t thought of, and suggests ways to use them.
Your brain is likely to toss ideas at you when you’re doing something entirely different than working on a project. It might be while you’re walking your dog. Or, it might be why you’re reading a book in the evening, eating dinner, or driving to the supermarket. Guess what you do when that happens? That’s right, you capture that idea.
Here’s the critical thing to remember. Your brain will not have its best ideas in the beginning. You’ll need to shape and sharpen them. Your brain will not do its best work unless you give it time to play. That’s when the magic happens.