Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Can You See the Forest Through the Trees?

I was picking up in my son's room and getting madder by the minute.  Socks, discarded baseball uniforms, and school clothes were strewn about the room in a haphazard manner.  This is not unusual.  What ticked me off is that the majority of them lay within ONE FOOT OF THE HAMPER.  How in the hell can he not see the damn hamper, I wondered.  Some of the clothing on the floor was actually TOUCHING the hamper.  I policed the room and talked to my son.  How come you didn't put them in the hamper? I asked.  I didn't see it, was the answer.  Oh, really?

Never mind that the hamper is this huge, navy blue affair that springs up when you unsnap the sides.  Its the kind touted as best for college dorms.  Also, forget the fact that I purposefully and strategically place it in between the Lego box and the movie player.  (I'm no dummy)  It's right there, I said.  How do you not see it every time?  How can you miss it?  My son answered, I guess I see it too much, so now I don't see it at all.  I had to give him credit.  The kid made me think.

What he said made profound sense to me, in the way sometimes kids do without meaning to.  Suddenly, in the middle of the elementary-school sized hurricane, I realized what was wrong with my latest writing project.  I hadn't been working on it much because nothing was coming to me.  I am a pantser, but unless you are receiving whatever ideas your own Musina plants in your creative little brain, you ain't pantsing nuthin'.  I had been trying too hard to get to a pre-determined destination instead of letting the project lead me there.  In other words, I couldn't see the forest through the trees.

My Mum used to reserve that saying for people who were, well, too stupid to live.  They just couldn't see what was right in front of them.  More often than not, this group included salespeople, fast food attendees, and generally anyone in the service industry.  What I realized is I could be in the group at that moment as well.  I needed to get un-stupid.  When I stepped back away from the project, it became clearer to me, and more focused.  And the ideas began to flow again.

Now, I don't recommend that you find a particularly messy 3rd grader's room to clean, but it worked for me.  Yours might be cleaning, cooking, jogging, or getting a mani-pedi.  Whatever it is, the point is take the break you need to clear your mind and redirect your focus.  And as for that forest?  You'll find the clearing you need in no time.

So, tell me....what do you do when you need to step away from the WIP?


  1. I'm a panster also and what I try to do is only focus on the scene I'm writing at the time. Not the entire book.

  2. I juggle between paper children. When I step away from one, another one needs my attention!

  3. I love your blog, Samantha! Your humor is unique and welcome. I'm a plotter and smack into the same dreaded road blocks all too often. To get my brain relaxed, I take the old Chevy out for a spin. Works every time.:)

  4. Some of the things which have worked for me:
    * assembling chairs, stools, or other small pieces of furniture that i've bought on sale but never found time to assemble [it puts my brain at work on a completely different plane than writing]
    * cutting briars, brush, or whatever growth has taken over a spot that would look much nicer 'cleared'. [Also uses diff. parts of my brain, but has the downside of making my body sore.]
    * sleep. [sometimes my unconscious mind will work out issues in a manuscript for me]