Thinking time

Jenny Davidson links to a lovely article by David Hajdu where he talks about Riverside Park on the west side of Manhattan beside the Hudson river.1 I especially linked this bit where he writes about the thinking that goes into a book. I spend a vast part of my writing time figuring things out in my head, what if-ing, and just randomly musing. It all goes into the books. I adore reading people write about that elusive part of writing:

Since college, I have lived mostly on the Upper West Side, and I’ve done a great deal of work in Riverside Park. By work, I mean not just the labor of making sentences; I mean the different sort of effort involved in reading or listening to music that I want to write about. I had the author photos for my first two books (“Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn” and “Positively 4th Street”) taken in Riverside Park, because the books were essentially made there. The park is where I did the musing that can be the most important part of writing.

Working in Riverside Park, one is reminded from time to time of the porous line between musing and daydreaming. My bench of choice faces the river, and I sometimes find the steady, endless rolling of the water lulling me to dreaminess. I like to think of this state as one conducive to epiphany, although it more often leads, in my case, to naps.

All so true. I can’t tell you how many times that wavering state where you’re not asleep but you’re not entirely in the here and now leads to insights and connections and ways to make the book I’m writing so much better.

It’s also very true that the same state can slide straight into sleep. As risks go that’s not a bad one. I quite like sleeping, me.

  1. For the New Yorkers, who are scornful of that description, may I remind you that many of my readers have never been to NYC and have no idea where or what the Upper West Side is. []


  1. Shaun Hutchinson on #

    I absolutely adore this post. One of my favorite parts of writing is sitting in my comfy chair on my patio just staring off into space. I call it “running scenarios.” I think about the what-if’s of a story and then let my brain play it out to the conclusion, hearing every conversation and every event. I used to think I was the only one who did that.

    And I like the naps too!

  2. Q on #

    I think while I’m walking places.

  3. Carrie V. on #

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people say to me, “Carrie, what’s wrong? What’s the matter?” I sort of shake myself awake and say, “Huh?” They say, “You looked kind of out of it. Like you’re sad or something. You were just staring off into space.” Then, very annoyed because I’ve been completely thrown off track, I explain that, “I’m thinking.”

    Not many of them get it.

  4. J on #

    Thinking time is the most important time of writing. i don’t know how to describe it. i remember so many times at night, when i am evading the horror that is sleep (i have really weird dreams, half of which are nightmares)i am thinking of things that will happen to my character. now, when i go to write down the actual scenes, a lot of those ideas are discarded, because they are impossibilties considering my character’s personalities, but they usually lead to different possibilities, which i love writing. right now, while writing my hardest – and most satisfying – novel, i seem to be thinking a lot. for some reason, the books that are the hardest to write are the ones that we love the most, the ones that scream WRITE ME, and the ones that you end up writing no matter how many times you try to ditch it.

Comments are closed.