Monday, April 4, 2011

The Muse Wore Neoprene

I find myself thinking about my writing in places where I'm often least able to actually write things down. You'd think, if I was being smart about this, I'd set aside some time before I write to plan things, plot things, brainstorm about things, and all the sort of things that come before the actual moment of typing. That would be the smart thing to do, when I'm at the keyboard, or at least within easy each of pens and paper.

Now, I know, inspiration can strike anywhere. I carry a notebook. Have carried the same notebook for over a decade now. (I know this because the very first thing I wrote in it had to do with the smell of cows in the parking lot of an Illinois Barnes and Nobles.) It is slowly but surely getting filled with ideas, some used, some not, that have mostly come to me when I wasn't deliberately musing.

And I have had enough ideas in the shower that I am tempted to buy a package of bath crayons - yes, there are such things - just to be able to write them down as they hit instead of having to wait until I'm dried off and won't drip all over the paper, causing the ink to run and smear.

But, as I have resumed swimming these past few months, I have discovered that it makes an excellent place to think about my writing. Unlike jogging, or any other exercise activity that's dry, I can't plug in headphones and listen to my NPR podcasts or other inspiring music. (I will confess that, long ago, I did in fact jog to the various themes and montages from Rocky.) I don't really have a choice but to be alone in my head. And while this is not always advantageous to the workout, particularly when I lose track of whether that was 150 or 200 yards at that last turn, there isn't much else to concentrate on.

There is something about being able to achieve that disconnect that I can't manage anywhere else, where I can put my body on autopilot - mostly - and let my mind roam where it will, that I find conducive to the idea process. I won't claim I'm spending all the time thinking about writing. It's a good time to think about other things, too, especially anything I might need to ponder over or decompress about. But I can think about such things as the direction of my subplots, the motivations of my characters, and take them in directions for a duration I don't normally have the time to do. And I can do so without feeling like I'm neglecting something else, like my taxes, for example, or those worksheets I'm supposed to be looking up for my students.

It's a time strictly for thinking, for musing, for indulging in purely academic thought exercises even as my arms cycle and my legs kick. Each train of thought interrupted only by the approach of the wall, and then resumed again as soon as I push off.

I just wish I had a place to write down the really good ideas that come to me in the water. ... Maybe they'll let me bring my crayons next time.

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