Train of Thought

One problem I’ve had when I sit down to write is that my mind wanders off to other things. Instead of forcing myself back to waiting for a writing subject to come to me, I decided to take advantage of my wanderings as a writing exercise.

Image by Judy van der Velden

I read about an exercise where you write down one word, then the next word the first one brings to mind, and so on. Instead of words, I wrote down thoughts. As soon as a thought would come in to my mind, I would write it down. I would then wait for the next thought it would trigger and write it down. For example, in a session, I thought that I hadn’t been to North Beach in San Francisco for a while and that I should go. Then I thought about my friend that was with me the last time I went. That led to thinking about something else my friend and I had done. Sometimes I would get stuck. My mind would be empty. It would only take a minute for the mind to wander off again. I found that you can’t go too deeply into any one thought. You have to keep part of your mind detached from the process so that you remember to write down what you’re thinking.

Setting is also important. I tried writing train of thought in a cafe. It was too distracting. I ended up mainly narrating the scene: people with dark clothes came in the door; there’s a long line at the register; they’re playing a Beatles song; I need more coffee. There was too much going on for me to get into my thoughts. Of course, narrating a scene may make for another type of exercise. The process worked best for me when it as quiet as possible. Even music in the back ground was distracting.

I don’t know if I’ll get anything out of what I actually write down in these sessions in the way of good writing or inspiration. I haven’t been doing them for that long so it may be too soon to say what value it may have. It should be interesting to look back on exactly what I was thinking a particular time. If I do it on a regular basis, I can compare how my thinking has changed or stayed the same. Regardless, the exercise is fun to do and gets me writing. It is definitely better than just sitting there doing nothing while waiting for inspiration.

Categories: Writing