Meditating. Percolating. Doodling. Chewing things over.
Writers have a plethora of ways to describe the thinking process of their creativity.
I prefer the term ‘composting.’
I remember my grandfather having an old compost heap, as did my father. It was a homemade enclosure of spare bricks stacked to form a small wall, about 4 bricks high. It had three sides with the fourth side open. As kids we would take down the bucket of scraps from the kitchen and dump it onto the pile of other food scraps and grass clippings.
From time to time my grandfather would turn the pile with a four tine garden fork revealing the decomposed layers beneath of nutrient rich soil. Shovelling forkfuls into the wheelbarrow, the compost was deposited around the pumpkin vines, beetroots other vegetables in season, around the citrus trees and under the rose bushes. As kids we would point excitedly and carry on if we saw a worm writhing and wriggling when exposed; a sign of good soil.
I like to ‘compost’ stories and characters in the back of my head, adding layers of ideas, concepts and problems. Sometimes all I get are choko vines (the world’s most bland and inedible vegetable unless used in McDonald’s Apple Pies) and the inevitable tomato plants (I don’t even like tomatoes).
I keep adding layers of scraps and in time, it yields a crop.
And as there are many ways to describe the creative process, there are as many places for a writer to go to spark their creativity or solve a problem with a narrative.
Time to mix my metaphors.
I may be no gardener, but I am a good washer-upperer.
For some reason, the place I best yield a crop of ideas or solve a plot problem is when I am over the kitchen sink, elbow deep in suds and bubbles, scrubbing dried on tomato sauce from plates. It’s meditative domesticity.
It’s a focused but unconscious activity requiring little deep thought and allows my brain to ruminate or compost a story I am working on. Maybe it’s the methodical process I use when washing up (glasses, cutlery, crockery, pots, miscellaneous – can we say OCD?) that allows a story to bubble to the surface and somehow gain a better perspective.
Often I’ve had to step away from the sink, dry my hands and head to the laptop to scribble down a paragraph or lines of dialogue. Maybe I need a dictaphone or speech recognition software so I can operate hands free.
Other writers I know hang out washing, iron clothes, go for walks or work out.
I told my wife that if she saw me washing up when I’m on long service leave I’m probably trying to solve an issue with my novel.
What’s your creative process and thinking space?