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Art of Doing Nothing
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Mary and I finished the first draft of our ninth Byzantine mystery a couple days ago. There's still a lot of work to be done on this one. I was pondering some of the notes we've been making as we go along, detailing shortcomings that need to be rectified. In particular, there was a revelation towards the end of the book that was not very interesting because we had not adequately laid the foundation for it.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time staring at the note about that problem and trying to think. Really hard. Narrowing my eyes in concentration, clenching my jaw, that sort of thing. Trying to squeeze ideas out of my brain by physical effort.

I realize that there is a squishy convoluted mass of tissue filled with churning chemicals and flashing electrical impulses right behind my eyes. But most of the time, when I think extremely hard and try to come up with an idea it just feels like a big, empty space back there. As usual I couldn't force myself to reason out a solution.

However, after I got up this morning, had breakfast, read about our next impending snow storm and Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte's retirement, and some blogs, I suddenly knew what to write. I had not been consciously wrestling with the problem since I'd become frustrated and clicked off my word processor the evening before. (Oh for the days when I had a physical notebook to fling at the wall!) Evidently something was going on in my head without my being aware of it.

The creative process remains a mystery to me. It appears to require a certain amount of peace and quiet and lack of effort. Trying to be constantly productive ultimately results in less production. Is it actually necessary to force myself to be lazy, or is that just self-justification?

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