To Think or Not to Think
Writing is 99% thinking, and the rest is typing. — Ray Bradbury
As I was reading favorite authors this winter, I had an epiphany, one maybe other writers have had all along: A great writer is a great thinker. Profound prose come from a mind that spends time pondering. Meditating. Or that writer has an innate mind for a deep consideration of ideas.
I don’t see myself as a great writer. I even thought of quitting after I heard that. But then I thought, maybe there’s a way to become a better thinker and thus, a better writer.
Writers who have experimented with thinking out their stories before putting them on paper swear it works. Cynthia D. Griffin found her writing changed dramatically when she thought out her story for three months before even starting to write. “…when I started writing, it was like a dam broke and I couldn’t freaking stop.”
David McCullough, two-time Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, says, “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard."
What makes someone a good thinker? Someone who can articulate their ideas? Someone who can immerse himself in reams of information and make sense of it all? Christopher Murphy explores the many sides of an idea and finds he can. “As you make the journey from destination to destination, all inevitably connected by that trail of links, you begin to tease out understanding,” says Murphy. I love that. Tease out understanding. I comprehend that. But I have only done that when I allowed the reams of information to settle, to gel, to find their vital synthesis.
Murphy further says, “Like many, I’m trying to make sense of the world. Like many, I’m trying to wrestle my innermost thoughts into some kind of coherent order that adds up.”
To help us all forward in our thinking to become better writers, here are 5 ways to improve our thinking. And hopefully the quality of our writing.
1. Daydreams - Be aware that daydreaming allows the mind to make new associations. What new rich details might come from letting your mind “wander.”
2. Memories – Recalling events changes them in our brains. Memories can be unreliable. In our brains, “Details are tweaked; the narrative is altered,” Mr. Lehrer tells us. Writing your version of a story is fine as long as you know it is your version.
3. Emotions – Enter into not only the conscious part of your creating a story but let the unconscious have some time with it. The unconscious picks up the sensual and emotional side of things – the feeling side.
4. Consider a new point of view – Give a character a different motivation or emotional makeup just to see if it clarifies his point of reference. For example: Give your hero a nasty habit. Chances are you would say, no, no, he would never do that. But in doing so, you clarify who he is.
5. Imagine new preferences – Do you love peanut butter? Imagine you hating it. Do you hate video games? Imagine you playing them vigorously (and winning). Does it shake loose some preconceived notions? Does it open up new thoughts about peanut butter and video games?
Can you think of more ways to adapt better thinking strategies for better writing?
Please share them in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you.