I recently came up with a plot development for Pindlebryth II. Don’t worry — no spoilers here! Besides, that’s not the point of this post. During my halcyon days of college, my brain evolved two nifty ways of solving problems.

1) Sleep on it — On the night after a math or physics class, I would read the assigned chapter(s) before crawling into bed. While the lecture and reading material were still fresh in my mind, I would also look over the associated homework problems. More than just glancing at them, I would review them until I understood what the problem was about — what the inputs were, the possible methodologies that could be used, and what the problem really was asking. Then I would go to sleep.

Somewhere along my junior and senior years, I picked up the knack of waking up with the answer. Most times it would be the plan of attack of how to solve the problem, but on some auspicious mornings I would wake up knowing the exact mathematical solution!
If that isn’t the grok experience, what is? God, I miss that…

In 2011, I conceived the entire plotline of Pindlebryth during six nights of insomnia. We shouldn’t find it surprising that sleep (or lack thereof) is so strongly linked to the thought process. Scientific studies have long shown a strong link between sleep and waking efficiency (and sanity). What I do find curious, is that the book came out of a major disruption in sleep, and the resulting waking (directed) dreams it caused. While I am pleased with the resulting novel, I don’t think I am willing, however, to go through a similar protracted bout of insomnia to plot out the sequel!

2) Pacing — Not walking, but pacing. During my senior year at college, I had my own office cum lab. At 10’x15′ it was little better than a prison cell with a shelf, desk and blackboard. But it was a blessed sanctuary far from the distractions of dormitory life, a place where I could think. In that little hidey-hole of my very own, I would often work by pacing back and forth in front of the blackboard with chalk in hand, while I talked out the problem to myself. Now that I quietly reflect on it, I can recall I often did the same in my work office decades later, before the introduction of the thrice-accursed industrial open-space cubicle.

Yesterday, I found myself pacing a circuit between my living room and kitchen. I was talking to myself about Pindlebryth II, and how to have the four main protagonists approach, tackle, and (hopefully) resolve the overarching problem that they face. Happily, I came up with a plot line that I believe fits the bill.

What was just as exciting as crafting the plotline segment itself, was the realization that I rediscovered one of my good thinking habits.
Yay! I’m not senile yet!
Although my dog was beginning to question my sanity — he watched with concern as I paced back and forth, gesticulating and talking to myself.

I will endeavor to cultivate this old friend of a habit. I’ll let you know in future posts if it was a fluke, or I’m onto something to boost my creative process…