If you’re anything like me, you try to set aside a certain amount of time each day to smash out words. You set goals, allocate the time, and hope when the appointed hour comes you deliver. With that being said, there have been plenty of times I sit down to start writing and suddenly feel detached from the story. No ideas come. I can’t even picture how my protagonist would talk. The dialogue becomes generic. The descriptions comical. The heart of the story is falling apart in front of me.
It’s painful, and I think we’ve all been there. Maybe you are there right now. Here’s an idea. Stop writing, and start daydreaming.
I never put much stock into the idea of visualization until I was trained to use it myself. One of the most stressful training evolution’s I ever experienced was something called drown-proofing. In a pool, with supervision, you are pushed into 14-foot water with your wrists velcro strapped behind your back and your feet velcro strapped together. The feel of constraint and the need for air become priority. Humans aren’t meant to be tied up and tossed into water. Panic sets in. Panic causes you start consuming the oxygen bottled up in your lungs even faster. Now you are choking. Struggling to get to the surface. You are going to drown.
If you do what you are trained to do, you simply blow the air out of your lungs causing yourself to become less buoyant. You then begin gliding down to the bottom of the pool. Your feet touch the bottom and you squat down. With all of your strength you explode from the bottom of the pool upward. If you do it right, you head peeks out of the water gently, you take a breath, and you start descending back down. It becomes rhythmic, almost trance like. Big breath of air. Slowly blow it out as you comfortably sink. Explode upwards. Take a breath. Start blowing it out as you sink. Over and over.
The first time I did this I failed. Into the water I went. Panic ensued. I was too scared to blow out my precious air so I bobbed awkwardly until I started becoming neutrally buoyant (floating about four feet below the surface) with no means of propulsion. I would rip the velcro straps and flee to the surface.
The second time I did it, I failed.
Before the third attempt an instructor took me aside and talked to me about visualization. He asked me why I couldn’t do this while the other people could. Why was I failing? I told him it was mostly because I was panicking. I just wasn’t getting enough pool time to get comfortable. That’s when he said I should train more in my head. He said something along the lines of, “You can take your brain anywhere to train.”
That night while laying in my bed, I visualized myself on the edge of the pool. The coolness of the air, the burning scent of the chlorine, the texture of the straps around my wrists and ankles. I stepped into the pool. I imagined myself being calm. Blowing out all the air in my lungs as bubbles floated to the surface. I watched myself sink lower and lower. I felt my feet touch the bottom. I exploded up. I glided straight back up to the surface. I felt my head breaking the water. I sucked in big breath as momentum stopped and then began sinking back down. I thought about it until I fell asleep.
The next day I went to drown-proofing, stepped into the water, and completed the drill with no issues.
Here’s the takeaway. When it came time to execute, I failed every time. My mental reality controlled my physical success. But when I went into dreamland and visualized success, my mental reality shifted. This produced the desired results.
This can be used when you write. Often times what’s blocking the words is your mental wall. Or, put another way, your mental reality is preventing the physical manifestation of your craft – words on paper. This can be from a lot of physical things (i.e. not enough sleep, lack of nutrition, wrong writing environment) but it can also be a disconnect between the whirlpool of mental creation and your fingers.
Visualization and daydreaming can help you reconnect that bridge. If you haven’t thought through the story well enough and the ideas are forming as you write, this can cause you to stumble. The analytic act of writing (i.e. grammar, sentence structure, punctuation) can compete with the act of creation.
Instead of taking your laptop and skipping it into a lake like a rock, take moment to daydream. Don’t just think about the story – disappear into it. Experience it as your characters do. See what they see and feel. Move forward with them. Once the path seems clearer, return to the monotony of typing or writing.
So many writers are totally result oriented. I know I am to a certain degree. “If I don’t write X number of words I will have to go to the temple and beg the writing gods for forgiveness.” We are scared to spend our limited writing time, not writing. If you have to spend one writing session just sitting around thinking – that’s not the end of the world. Especially if the result is you being able to crush it during the next session because you’ve hacked a path through the mental jungle with a machete.
Still think the idea is garbage? Search information about the daydreamers Albert Einstein, Issac Newton, and Nikola Tesla. The list of daydreamers is long and distinguished. Add yourself to the list!
That’s it for today. Are you a daydreamer? Do you have a certain method of visualization you employ? I’d love to hear about – drop me a line in the comment box. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!