On Plotting: intentional versus unintentional creative thinking time (#IWSG Blog Hop)

On Plotting: intentional versus unintentional creative thinking time #plotting #amwriting #authors

A creative writing teacher once gave my class some advice I’ll never forget: when it comes to story ideas, it’s best to ride around on the bus with it. In other words, take time to process and decide if it’s the best story and/or story direction. In my mind, there are two types of riding-around-on-the-bus-with-it:
1. Unintentional thinking time: the epiphanies come to you when they come to you.
2. Intentional thinking time: you schedule time to develop ideas, work through plot holes, seam story threads together.

Both are great, but unless you plan on taking a decade to write your next novel, consider deliberately deliberating.

With intentional thinking time, there are two considerations: The When and The What. As to The When, I use the term “schedule” loosely here. It could be any spare five minutes, but before that five minute starts, it’s helpful to give yourself a task (The What): the kernel that needs expanding, the plot bunny that needs cajoling, the character arc that needs developing.

On Plotting: intentional versus unintentional creative thinking time #plotting #amwriting #authorsIdeas for The When:
-At bedtime: lately, I’ve taken to writing my plot holes on sticky notes and putting them on the wall by my bed. Before I fall asleep, I read through them and decide which one I want to focus on. If you read before bed, make notes about what to process on a bookmark, so it’s the last thing you see before you close the book.
-In the shower: I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I do some of my best plotting in the shower. When I’m in the thick of writing a book, I consider it a waste of a shower if I haven’t given myself a problem to work through while I’m in there. I usually read my outline notes for the chapter ahead and then jump in for some creative suds-ing.
-During the commute: if you commute to work by bus, then you can literally ride your ideas around on the bus (or the train or the carshare.) If you drive, concentrate on the road.
-While waiting: never wait in line or in your dentist’s reception area without a mission again. That’s right folks. Pull on those thinking caps and work through those ideas.

I wrote this post for the monthly Insecure Writers Support Group blog hop. To continue hopping or to join the hop, click here. (There are more than 200 of us, and it’s fun!)

Is your creative thinking process intentional, unintentional or a combination? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

69 thoughts on “On Plotting: intentional versus unintentional creative thinking time (#IWSG Blog Hop)

  1. Oh my goodness, I totally relate to this post. When I’m working on a project, a shower is a complete waste of time to me unless I’m working on some plot problem while I’m in there! I like how you mention the difference between intentional and unintentional thinking time, because both are important parts of my creative process. I often won’t start a project until I have some sort of epiphany as to what it should be about, but from that point on it’s all showers and intentional daydreams as I try to coax the plot into something remotely write-able. Either way, thinking about projects is always a lot of fun – sometimes more so than the actual writing 🙂

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  2. It’s usually a combination, but I’ve found with the intentional ones, nothing comes of them – just more frustration because I can’t figure out story issues! Unintentional ones are great, but I’ve also found that if they come at the most inconvenient times, trying to note down and/or remember it can be difficult. But, whichever way, finally getting that solution brings such a wave of relief.

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    1. I had to wake myself up two nights ago, because I knew I wouldn’t remember an opening line for a chapter, and it’s a good thing I put it in a reminder in my phone, because I had completely forgotten I’d done that when the reminder pinged. 🙂

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  3. I don’t schedule time to plot. My favorite thing is to fantasize about my story while falling asleep. I do it most nights and come up with great scenes and ideas that way. And yes, I remember in the morning. 🙂

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  4. I love this, because I definitely do a lot of both. The deliberate time is usually during mundane activities, like you said, and I also do it while listening to music. I know not to rush my brain and how long it needs to sit on something and what details I need to work out before I actually start writing. Rushing leads to me falling flat on my face when I try to write.

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  5. I love your old teacher’s thoughts. It’s true, innit. And your descriptions are spot on. I find myself musing over ideas often from snippets I’ve written down, while I’m reading another book (that sparks my creativity), and the boredom of commutes.

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  6. Yup, I literally do a lot of plotting, thinking, writing while “on the bus.” (Well, it used to be on a bus, lately I’ve been driving.) Walking the dog also used to be a big one for me, I would never take the time to go for a walk and think on my own, but taking the dog out forced me to do it.

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  7. I use Scrivener (not a shill). I print the outline from the index cards to see what needs to slot in where, how many dead end introductions I have, nowhere plot devices or characters…makes it easier to spot them and go to work. Spontaniety is my name. Jam hard and often, get it down. Then take a weedeater to it. It’s hard to fuss and edit unless you have a story…

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  8. I always get the best ideas right when I’m doing something else. I don’t know if it’s a mental diversion or what, but I keep post it notes handy. I also jot down everything in google docs if I can. I wish you luck Raimey 🙂

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  9. I use sticky notes all the time – have them stuck all over my legal pads. Also, I email notes to myself during the day. And my awesome daughter gave me one of those notepads for the shower. And in a pinch, I use grocery receipts, those stupid renewal cards from magazines, and napkins if I don’t have my notebook.

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  10. I think steam in the shower is vaporized inspiration. I always have a bevy of creative gems that pop into my mind during showers and hope to hold onto a handful by the time I get to paper. I love your sticky notes by the bed idea. Unfortunately, I think my air filter would blow them off and then one of the pups would probably eat them before I woke. However, as always you have some great actionable advice here. It is always a pleasure reading your posts, Raimey.

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  11. I love that expression “ride around on the bus with it”! And yes to deliberately deliberating. Brainwaves are going to come at all sorts of times, but I definitely like to sit down with my ideas and think them out as well. Love these suggestions!

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  12. Newbie. I carry my ideas around in my head and mull them over when I’m doing chores, commuting or walking the dogs until I can get home to my computer.

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  13. Boy, I wish I could do intentional creative thinking, but I seem incapable of it. When I get my conscious mind involved all creativity seems to go right out the window. But maybe I could be intentional in the scheduling, at least. Interesting, thought-provoking post!

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  14. Much of my creative writing process is unintentional. I hit upon an idea and run with it. I dont know yet how to work on it in an intentional way – the epiphanies would be lost and that would sadden me.

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