“At home thinking,” John Adams, Diary entry
“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry
Let’s face it: Thinking is hard work. As Hercule Poirot might say, exercising our “little gray cells” can be a strain. And yet, so much of what we do is invisible — it takes place not on the page or in cyberspace, but in our heads.
David McCullough is a literary hero of mine — what a gifted storyteller he is! During a speech he once gave at the opening of the American Writers Museum, he made a point that really caught my attention: people always ask him how much time he spends researching and writing, but no one ever asks him how much time he spends thinking.
Sometimes, as Lorraine Hansberry, author of the classic play “A Raisin in the Sun,” said so well, we need to “sit awhile and think” — to stop the flow of writing and revising and simply ponder the next plot point we’re heading toward or even rethink fundamental ideas behind a project we’re working on, or the next.
When we take time to do this, we can reap some rich benefits:
Slowing the pace of revision can reveal gaps and flaws.
Disrupting the writing process lets new ideas bubble up.
Pausing can refresh us and rekindle our enthusiasm.
Pondering aspects of our story can lead to deeper truths.
When we take time to slow down, we give our work the time to catch up with us and to reveal its hidden treasures. Taking time gives us the freedom to revisit, rethink and re-envision. Often, there’s something deeper, better, and truer hidden inside it that we can discover only if we stop and look for it with patient eyes.
So wherever we are in the flow of our work, let’s always be bold enough to stop and think awhile whenever we need to. Have you found bouts of simply thinking to be fruitful? If so, I’d love to hear from you as we all write on!
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