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Pen Down, Brain Off

I really liked what Rebecca Stead said in a recent New York Times article about how she spends her weekends. Her book When You Reach Me is the latest Newbery Award winner, and it was one of my favorite recent reads. I don't always agree with awards committees and I don't read a lot of YA books aimed at younger readers (her MC's are sixth grade), but this one was charming - in a Time Traveler's Wife mixed with Encyclopedia Brown kind of way. Stead said Sunday is her day to turn her brain off. She said that it's the only way to allow it to relax and make new connections. Without the input that comes from "days off," storytellers have nothing to say.

Her comments reminded me about the importance of doing nothing. In our society, where productivity is so highly revered, we seldom give ourselves permission to do nothing. I've commented that some of my best ideas for writing have come to me while I'm in New Orleans, but maybe that's because I'm away from my routine and not feeling tied to a computer or compelled to work (although I do think the city's ambience has something to do with it.)

So, this weekend, turn your brain off. Take a walk or go for a bike ride. If this rain keeps up, hit the couch and let your mind float free. Yep, you can even take a nap if you like. A lot of writers think your best stuff is accessed in those first few moments of waking up, when the censors aren't up and running at full throttle yet. Natalie Goldberg writes about writing from your "wild mind" or "monkey mind," accessing the universe through your imagination. You just have to unclutter your head to dig down to the deep primal issues that are waiting to be mined (pun intended.) There's no telling what will come to you if you give yourself permission to drift.

Posted in March, 2010

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