Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I've Got a Theory: Walk-n-Plots

So I have a theory that goes like this:

A Brain can't focus on just one thing unless it knows well where it's going.

Which I realize totally goes against the "One track mind" theory, but hear me out.

Have you ever sat down to write, but hadn't worked through your next scene (or where your plot is going) or what your next blog post is going to be about, and you get a little distracted? You sit and stare at the screen and think, Uhhhh.... I think I'm going to make my MC's bff find a note she had actually written to.... um.... Oh! I need to go into my online banking to see if that check cleared! Okay, back to writing. Hm.... So when she finds the note, she's going to THINK that it was really to her and.... Oh, my gosh! I was supposed to check to see if SIL posted those pictures on facebook! I almost forgot!

It's because your brain can't just do one thing, unless it knows VERY WELL what it's doing. If you aren't sure where you're going with a scene, your brain is working that out but at the same time it's working on other non-what-you're-trying-to-work-on things.

So how do you solve this problem? It's really simple, actually. You give your brain a task to work on that it DOES know very well. One it could do with its eyes closed. The dishes. Making dinner. Mowing the lawn. Folding clothes. Vacuuming. Once its tied up doing those jobs, the rest of your brain is free to focus on what you're trying to work out. It stops going all ADD on you.

For me, my favorite way is what I like to call a Walk-n-Plot. I head to a canal near my house that has a dirt pathway to the side of it. Really similar to this picture, actually.

The canal road is perfect because there aren't many people on it. Not many people to see that I talk to myself A LOT when I Walk-n-Plot. This is also where the cell phone voice recorder comes in handy. As I come up with one plot puzzle piece, I can record what I figured out instead of trying to hold it in memory while I work on the next puzzle pieces. Plus, whenever a runner comes by, they can just assume that I'm talking on the phone, instead of to myself.

So, once you've Walked-n-Plotted, cleaned house, showered, or whatever else got your brain working on something else so you could figure things out, then your brain is in that category of knowing exactly where it's going. And once you know where you're going, your brain can focus on it entirely.

(Pantsers, I know you may be thinking my theory is bunk at this juncture, but I've pantsed my way through a few things, and I think the theory still holds. When you sit down to write, don't you find yourself getting easily distracted until you get that spark of where to go? Once you get it, the ideas start flowing, and your brain suddenly KNOWS WHERE IT'S GOING. Then the distractions stop.)

What do you do to keep your brain busy enough to let it focus on figuring things out?


J+S said...

I think the older I get the more I exhibit symptoms of ADD. Is it aging, or is our world that crazy, or do we just allow ourselves to become too distracted these days?

Leigh Ann said...

Showering always works for me. Always always always. I need to get one of those white boards you can write on in the shower, you know, for scuba divers?

I think you're right, though. Great post, Peggy. :)

Kelley Lynn said...

Ooo, walk and plot! Love the idea Peggy!

I used to do the same sort of thing in my spinning class, but I have turned to joining a boxing club now... which I love, by the way. And I can't really think about anything else other than the fact that I'm dying when I'm there :)

I do most of my plot thinking in bed. I have a notebook at the side of my bed and when I come up with a good idea I write it down.

And most of my plotting does come out while I'm writing. I can so relate to the checking account thing though :)

Bkloss said...

This is great!

I also find those moments where I have the HARDEST time focusing on a scene is when it isn't properly mapped out. Running usually fixes that for me, then I dash home and jot everything down (which is also why I have streaky paper...)

That canal is beautiful..I'd LOVE to walk down that!

LisaAnn said...

Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and I'm so happy to find yours! I find that I usually get my best ideas while sleeping or bathing. When I sit down and try to think beautiful thoughts, I invariably fall into the "I need to check my bank account" rut. Walking would probably be better for my health, but I generally have very clean hair... ;)

Abby Fowers said...

Brilliant! I've never thought about it this way, but I think you're right. That's probably while I get so many ideas when I'm driving! I need to start jogging. That would benefit me more than driving and I could still plot :)

linda said...

Great post! I'm used to doing a lot of thinking during the day and then gathering all my thoughts into an outline before I write. At least, that's what I did for academic papers -- it's a lot harder with a novel because there are so many more puzzle pieces!

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

Sleeping, working around the house or yard.

David P. King said...

The only problem I have with doing a seemingly mindless task is I find others and have to do them too. But yes. Walks are great. Check the sights, observe people--all excellent story sources.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Jenifer-- Ha! I've been feeling a little ADD lately, too! Occasionally I wish I'd been born with it, though. Does ADD make for an incredibly hard childhood? Definitely. But I know adults with ADD, and they get an amazing amount of things done in a day! Maybe they used their childhoods to figure out how to make it work for them.

Leigh Ann-- Showering does it for me, too! (Which is one of the reasons I can't seem to take less than a 30 minute shower...) But yeah. Not the best location for recording the things you've figured out. :(

Kelley-- Hahaha! Yeah, I can imagine it'd be hard to plot while you're boxing. Unless, of course, you're plotting a fight scene. :) I like to plot in bed, too. Something about laying down makes your brain work better. I just fall asleep way too easily. :(

Barbara-- Me, too! Except I'm not a runner. My papers are probably less streaky. :)

LisaAnn-- I don't know-- very clean hair ranks pretty high. I wouldn't discount it at all.

Abby-- Haha! Plus then you'd have so much more time to plot!

Linda-- I think that's a great way to go-- more puzzle pieces or not!

Richard-- Very good ones.

David-- Finding other mindless tasks just means more plotting time, right? Although it also means less writing time....

Jeff King said...

Well, so far I have been blessed, writing “the story” is easy… it just comes to me as I write. I have never had as issue with writers block. My 98k first draft took about 3 months: but, I have been revising that manuscript for about a year now. My issues derive from the technical side of writing, but slowly I am getting better—and hopefully I’ll grow enough to complete said WIP very soon.

Jenny S. Morris said...

Driving in my car, or inputting info into the accounting system at work, that's where I plot while my minds busy doing the mundane.

Jolene Perry said...

I can't write a synopsis -well, not until I'm done anyway, but I do this, too.

I love to go for walks and that's when I've come up with my best plot points. My phone doesn't have that feature, but I'll text myself brief notes, or if I've found a cool way to put a thought together, I'll write that, too.

SO helpful.

Also - I write my endings fairly soon into writing something. It gives me GREAT ideas of little things I could do along the way.

So, that also helps me :D

J+S said...

Re: the chocolate melting in the recipe video. I agree, that is my favorite part. I'm thinking they had a hair dryer on it and in editing just sped the time up?


E.D. said...

Very interesting - and I think you are right about the brain not being able to focus unless it knows well what it is doing. It happens to me a lot, getting out of focus because of this. Also, several studies have shown that our modern world, with all of its distractions like blackberries and text messages etc. contribute to ADD....

Peggy Eddleman said...

Jeff-- I am seriously impressed with your tenacity and willingness to grow as a writer! Way to keep yourself from getting distracted!

Jenny-- Ahh. So cool to have parts of your job that allow your brain to plot while you're getting paid! :)

Jolene-- So we're both Walk-n-Ploters! That's a great idea to write the ending not too far into the story.

Jenifer-- You're probably right. It was so cool!

E.D.-- I haven't heard about all the distractions contributing to ADD before, but I totally believe it!