One of the things I’ve discussed over the years has been playing games and doing puzzles. For all the fun they provide to players, they also provide an opportunity to come up with solutions or problems a person might have.
For writers, Muse tends to hide in the shadows until the conscious mind is focused elsewhere. Then, she’ll pop out and waves a tiny red flag that her person either sees or ignores. With a bit of practice in watching for that flag of innovation, the writer can destress and find creative solutions to writing problems simultaneously.
Here’s how it works.
Sit down to any kind of game or puzzle—in the material world or the computer—with others or alone. Allow your mind to lose focus on your current story problem and gain focus on the game at hand. Relax.
As you play, your subconscious mind still holds onto the story problem—or whatever problem you’ve been saddled with lately. Soon little images or song snippets will begin to seep into your conscious mind. Perhaps you have the radio/stereo on while you’re at play. Even better. Music is a strong memory trigger, which can be channeled for creative purposes.
Don’t force anything. Just allow the process to unfold. Pay attention to the red flags; a new character appears—one surrounded by conflict or comedic relief. You might see a tool or device to eliminate info dump of backstory through dialogue between current characters. Along the way you might gain a new plot twist that actually incorporates the problem you’re trying to solve.
Whatever happens, you can return to writing with a fresh perspective. That, in itself, can be a boon to the story.
What if you aren’t a writer?
The process can work for anyone, on nearly any type of problem. Solutions are merely relaxed perspectives coupled with accumulated thought about a situation. In other words, the person relaxes long enough for those previous thoughts and considerations to come together in a logical manner and hand over the solution.
The key is relaxation. Many people meditate to find solutions. That activity works well for problem solving. Playing games or working puzzles does too. Varied forms of relaxation operate more effectively for different people.
For me, solitaire, in several forms, mahjong, jigsaw puzzles, etc. work especially well. Playing pen and paper games do, too; hangman is a great example. Play hangman in your head with someone else and serve several purposes; strengthen your memory, play with words you might not otherwise use, and relax.
But my problem is more complicated than that or more serious.
If that’s the case, you have even more reason to relax. Take a leap and brainstorm with someone you trust. Brainstorming is a kind of mind game that allows for free association and solutions on the fly. Give yourself a break. If you can’t come up with your own solution, another person might. That person can see from a different perspective, because their experience and life is different from yours. Take advantage of the opportunity. If you think about it, the old adage of “two heads are better than one” comes from the practice of brainstorming.
Whatever avenue a person takes, there is value in giving the mind a time out and doing something that seems like a waste of time. It’s been observed that when you see a successful person “staring into thin air” and “doing” nothing, what you don’t see is the problem solving or innovation that’s going on inside that person’s head.
Single standing robot. Black background
Daydreamers give all of us our world. An idling mind may be designing the next big transportation solution, the next medical cure, or the newest symphony.
It’s okay to look idle. It’s okay to feel idle. The key is allowing our creative minds the freedom to explore solutions and innovation.
Until next time, a bientot,
P.S. I’ve got a hot game of mahjong to finish. See ya later.