Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Give Your Monkey a Task

As writers, we face a lot of obstacles while trying to plot out a novel.  But probably the biggest obstacle we have to hurdle is our very own busy-busy-busy minds.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.  You're writing along, and you come to a place in the story where the plot is a little murky, or where you're unsure of your character's next move.  And suddenly your mind comes up with a million things that you need to be doing: laundry, grocery shopping, paying bills...anything except writing.

Monkey Mind, be gone!
Monkey Mind has struck again.

According to the incomparable Natalie Goldberg, we all have a Monkey Mind; that part of our brain that chatters and jibber-jabbers on and on and won't shut up.  The part of brain that tells us we suck as writers and we'll never amount to anything.  The part of our brain that tells us we'd be better off doing the laundry than writing.

You must learn to shut your Monkey Mind up.

How do you do that?  Well, like all monkeys, Monkey Mind likes to be busy.  So give it a task.  Once your Monkey Mind is nice and distracted, your Wild Mind will be free come out and play.  And your Wild Mind is where all your ideas live.  Wild Mind is that juicy, fertile land of plots and character and inspiration.  Writers live in Wild Mind.

Wild Mind Territory
Two of my favorite Monkey Mind tasks are cooking and walking.  (Driving is also a good one, but it's hard to stop and write down ideas when you're driving.)  My Monkey Mind loves to chop vegetables and measure ingredients and bake cakes.  And while it's busy doing that, my Wild Mind roams free over the hills and valleys of whatever plot points I'm trying to figure out.

When I was working on my novel Shift, my husband and I would take long walks after dinner every evening.  As we walked, we'd brainstorm plot ideas.  (A lot of his ideas were ripped from television shows and I'm not ashamed to admit that I used one from that guiltiest of guilty pleasures, Nip/Tuck.)  There was something about the simple act of walking through the tree-lined streets of our neighborhood that facilitated these productive brainstorming sessions, much more so than if we'd been sitting on our living room couch.

So the next time you get stuck on a plot point, and your Monkey Mind won't stop twittering in your ear, pull out an elaborate souffle recipe.  Or grab your sneakers.  Find a task that will occupy your Monkey Mind for hours, and take the scenic route through Wild Mind.

Nicole Maggi lives in Los Angeles, CA with her amazingly supportive husband and is a mom to one-year-old Emilia.  She worked as an actress for many years in New York before the lure of sunshine and avocados enticed her to the West Coast.  Though she still acts, her focus now is on her writing.  In her very limited spare time, Nicole enjoys yoga, hiking, baking (and eating what she bakes), reading, reading, watching reruns of LOST, and more reading.  Please follow her on Twitter so she can reach her goal of 1000 followers by her book's release date!

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