Noodling, Or the Fine Line Between Processing and Woolgathering

I’m in one of those (usually) short fallow periods that seem to be a part of my process. What that means is that I need to let my subconscious pick away at some identified problems in the structure of the book going forward.

The way it usually goes is my subconscious spots a big old problem in the plan before I actually get to it in the text and I have conscious “well damn,” moment. I then stall out for a while, usually on the order of a week or two while my backbrain picks away. Then, at some point I say, “the hell with it, I’m just going to write through it,” and I do so. I suspect that I hit the write through it moment because my subconscious has solved the problem and sends some subtle message to the motivational centers.

Unfortunately, there’s a potentially perfectly valid alternate theory: I’m lazy. I hit a difficult spot and don’t want to do the work to get through it, so I go off and woolgather until my Midwestern guilt at not working gets bad enough to drive me back to the keyboard where I solve the problem in real time by just writing through it and all the fallow period stuff is so much sophistery to disguise the fact that I don’t actually like to do hard work.

I strongly suspect and hope that the first theory is the correct one but I’m aware enough of my ability to self-justify that I will never really know, and that’s actually pretty aggravating.


(Originally published on the Wyrdsmiths blog July 01 2008, and original comments may be found there. Reposted and reedited as part of the reblogging project)