Write On Wednesday: Think Tank

I’ve had a lot to think about lately.

Between music for school and bells,  consulting and training at my previous job, the possibility of selling our home in Florida, the ever present concern about my dad’s health and the little hole in my heart that comes from missing my grandson, my mind has been all awhirl.

photo credit -Trish Robinson

When I get on a roll and start perseverating about all my projected worries to my husband, his general response is “I’m not going to worry about that until I have to. Why get all agitated about it now when you don’t even know the outcome?”

There is wisdom in this line of thinking, of course there is. He is a logical, analytical thinker, while I lead with my emotions – and mostly those born of fear and anxiety. Over the years I’ve tried reform my thought patterns, tried to substitute logic for raw feeling, but unfortunately I’ve never been too successful at it. I don’t know if you can be taught to think like an engineer or an accountant, if they offer courses in logical thinking for enrolled agents studying for enrolled agent exams.

If they did, I would probably fail.

Earlier this week I read a short e-book by novelist Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, State of Wonder) entitled The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life. In it, she talks about the way she thinks through her novels, how she can spend years just thinking about characters and plot and story before ever committing a word to paper. She writes that her first novel was written largely in her head while she was a waitress at TGI Friday’s, plotted while she carried trays of burgers and beer back and forth.

That was just an amazing concept to me, that you could focus your thoughts so intensely on something for such a long period of time. I can never manage to think about one thing for more than a few minutes before my mind flits off to worry ponder something else.

Of course the kind of writerly thinking Ann Patchett speaks of is much different from thinking like an engineer or an accountant. But it requires a similar linear pattern and focused attention to detail, otherwise it could never be productive.

How to break the “monkey mind” cycle and focus my thoughts productively?

Hmm…something else to think about.

How about you? How do you think? Like an engineer, a writer, or a “monkey” like me? Any advice for taming the monkey mind and learning to focus?

 

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3 thoughts on “Write On Wednesday: Think Tank

  1. I guess my answer to your question is, “Yes”. Sometimes I think logically, as when I’m trying to solve a problem with my computer or work my way through some scheduling difficulties. Sometimes I do other kinds of thinking.

    But what I’ve learned, and what has been confirmed here and there in articles I’ve read, is that unfocused thinking is the most creative thinking. That’s why we often have insights in the shower, or upon waking. The mind has been at rest, not forced into “focusing”, and it’s able to make connections that otherwise wouldn’t have appeared.

    I wonder about Patchett’s thought process. I “work on” a lot of my blog entries at work, but it’s not intensely focused thinking – I don’t do an outline in my head and then flesh it out. It’s something else entirely – if I ever figure it out I’ll write a book about it and make $$$! 😉

  2. I’m the emotional one, the worrier. My husband is much less emotional. We’re very compatible, but a number of our “discussions” over the years have begun with me looking at him in exasperation and saying, “Could you bring just a little energy to this problem.” His calm, unruffled demeanor comes across as unengaged to my bouncing-off-the-walls reaction.

    I have to tell you, though, when I rest my mind in yoga class, I’m tranquil for hours afterwards. And I think Shoreacres has something there about creative thinking and insights popping up in the shower. I have a lot of revelations while I’m driving to and from my father’s. I’ve driven that road so many times that I believe I self-hypnotize; my mind slips out of gear and idles for a time. Suddenly, a solution comes to me. Interesting.

  3. I think like all of them — well, not the engineer. I lead from my heart! But I like Patchett’s thought and from my point of view, I agree with her. I’ve been working on my novel in my head for eons (and really, it’s time to get it on the computer, even though it’s a crap novel, it’s mine.) I do that with blog posts, so when I get to the computer, I know right where I’m going and it just comes. Same with press releases I know about in advance. I learned a long time ago that the blank page — art or writing — can freak me out, so if I start with a plan — a plan I am perfectly willing to modify — I’m much better off!

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