Talking Shop: Rabbit Trails

Recently, while drafting up a novel, I had to outline a scene that contained a smorgasbord of syrups. I didn’t have an IHOP within stone’s throw of my writing desk, so I fired up Google. Of course, within minutes, I was knee deep in search results, reading about the savory taste of birch syrup and the methods of creating a simple syrup from honey and water.

Your friendly-neighborhood-writing-professor just recoiled in horror. Conventional wisdom has always cautioned against such distractions while writing.

Doubtless, you’ve heard these warnings:

“The second you open an internet browser, you’ll break your flow state!”
“Multitasking in that way will wreak havoc on your writing.”
“Before you sit down to write, take a hammer to your internet router, cut your telephone lines, and board up your windows!”

This is one area where I break with tradition. That strange, ancillary effect writing has—forcing us to dive into unknown subjects—is a reason in itself to write. I’ve found curiosity begets more curiosity. The rabbit-holes I find myself wandering down are a boon for the creative process. At times, what started as the first draft of a story has caused me to learn more about architecture, vocations, nomenclature associated with various industries, and geography. In moments such as these, writing a novel feels as instructive and educational as my experience in college as a journalist.

So, my advice is simple: feel free to carve out some time to write without interruption. But also schedule some time with a little more leeway. Allow your brain a little more leash every now and again, and it just might do wonders for your creative process.

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