Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Do Nothing, Write More: How Being Idle Can Improve Your Writing by Rochelle Melander

One man's daydreaming is another man's novel.
—Grey Livingston

Every Tuesday afternoon, I run Dream Keepers, a creative writing workshop for tweens and teens at an inner city Milwaukee library. Last week, snippets of popular songs kept interrupting our work. The culprit? Cell phones. The teen-aged Dream Keepers tried to juggle writing and texting for the first 15 minutes of our time together. It didn’t work.

Earlier this year, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the shocking results of their study on media and youth: children ages 8-18 are connected to media nearly 8 hours a day. Add it up: that’s 53 hours a week — more time than most of us spend working.

Both the study and the experience with the Dream Keepers made me examine my own behavior. How much of my precious time do I fill with computer games, social networking, television, music, and texting? And how does that affect my writing?

Writers, when we fill every blasted moment with media noise, we lose the benefit of idle time. And that, no doubt, affects our writing. We need idle time to catch the wisdom flowing through the air. Without daydreams and meandering walks, how would we birth new stories? Without lazy mornings and afternoon naps, how could we imagine new projects? Without the time to listen to music and shoot hoops, how could anyone vision a different way of being in the world? In these unscheduled moments, free from work and disconnected from the world, we birth new ideas and create new ways of expressing ourselves. In the playful, idle times, we listen to the music of our souls. In the breaths between the tasks, we are free to dream.

Daydreaming gives us time to conjure up the content we’re going to write about.

We can dream up the characters, imagine the setting, and play the scenes over in our head. Daydreaming allows us to wander into the world of our ideas.

And guess what? Scientists have proven that when we daydream, the problem-solving function of our brain is hard at work. Actually, our brains are more active when we daydream than when we perform routine tasks. That means that we can daydream about anything and still come back to a problematic writing project with a solution.

This week, study your own media habits. How much time do you spend texting and surfing online? Then make a commitment to give up some of that media time in favor of daydreaming. It will improve your writing. Promise.

Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander supports people in writing to transform their lives and businesses. If you’re ready to establish credibility, make more money, and market your work by writing a book, blog, or Web site, get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at

1 comment:

  1. Great article, something I've long held true and yet this precious commodity called "doing nothing" is so easily nickle and dimed by the nonsense that so often passes for real life.