The Creative Footprint

stirling wind farmSpending time in Scotland has motivated me to reduce my carbon footprint. The Scots have an energy independence goal date of 2050 and they are ahead of schedule. They’ve already had their first day of meeting the country’s entire energy needs through wind power–the entire country.

My reasons for leaning greener include concern for the planet, and for the long term viability of fossil fuels as an energy source. I’m also worried about what the folks selling that fossil fuel DO with all the revenue flowing to them as a result of the rest of the world’s fossil fuel dependence.

cat drivingIn any case, I’m driving as little as possible, looking into rooftop solar, planning on buying a hybrid next time I get a vehicle, and trying to consolidate trips into the office with at least one other task. My commute, which hasn’t varied for more than twenty years, is more than twenty miles each direction. It adds up.

cat driving 3And yet, those twenty miles are mostly country miles. From my house, it’s about seven miles to the first stop light, and on the way to Hagerstown, where my law office is, I hit a grand total of three more stop lights. I’m driving through farmland, over a very familiar route. Lately, I’ve been in the office a lot more (boo), but I noticed something: I daydream on that commute.

cat driving fourI have a very good driving record (knock wood), and I know the roads inside out, so I don’t think I’m inattentive. It’s just that my drive–especially my drive home–is decompression time. My imagination wanders, and stray thoughts go hopping across my mental screen. What if Napoleon had a half-English daughter? What if Axel Belmont could create a thornless rose? What if Hamish MacHugh, the Scottish meatwagon, loved poetry and was at heart shy and chivalrous? Hey yeah, what if….? 

cat driving fiveA writer MUST have mental screensaver time like this, or the ideas never germinate. I had not in any regard expected that cutting back time in the office would also result in less time thinking like a writer though. Writers’ loops are full “unintended consequences” discussions about quitting the day job, keeping the day job, going back to the day job, but this isn’t a downside I’ve seen mentioned anywhere.

I know I’ve used my commute to mentally transition between roles, from author to lawyer, lawyer to author, but I’d neglected to account for the benefit to both jobs of Matthew coverhaving this mental white space in my day. Driving into the office, I organize the lawyer agenda, puzzle over cases, and twiddle the legal Rubik’s cube in a manner I don’t do any other time.

Dang. I refuse to drive around Western Maryland in my pick up truck just to spin my mental wheels, but I will have to find a way to make the same kind of imaginative breathing room without getting into the truck. Who’d have thought?

Have you ever tried to fix one problem only to create another? Ever been forced to make a change you regarded as problematic, only to experience unexpected benefits? Any ideas for how to fit more daydreaming into my day? To one commenter, I’ll send a signed copy of Matthew–The Jaded Gentlemen, Book II, which hits the shelves on Tuesday! 


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15 comments on “The Creative Footprint

  1. While I was still working, I would use my 20 minute drive into work for prayer time. It was very early in the morning (about 5 am) and there was little traffic. Worked well for me. But one morning I was stopped for speeding – in a well known speed trap yet!

    My mellow mood (brought on by my prayers) served me well that morning. Although I received a well deserved gentle lecture from the cop – he did not give me a ticket.

    I’ll be downloading MATTHEW to my kindle on Tuesday. It is now at the top of my TBB (to be bought) list.

  2. Growing up in a small house with 8 very loud people, I learned to daydream regardless of location or surrounding distractions. My brothers called me the daydream queen. My natural tendency to daydream has survived into adulthood but has had to be suppressed to a certain degree, for the sake of productivity and safety. I always daydream in the shower, on the toilet, on the treadmill, while I chop vegetables for dinner, and during PTA meetings. Just like exercise, you’ve got to fit your daydreaming in when it works for you!

  3. I used to have a 2-hour-each-way commute through Chicago traffic. On the way to I did the daydreaming. Sometimes it was troubleshooting for the job, or organizing my day, but sometimes it was just daydreaming. On the way home it was usually a teleconfrence because scheduling them that way let me leave the office earlier so to miss the traffic that would turn my 2 hour commute into a 4 hour commute.
    When we moved to northern michigan, I really missed the daydreaming time. I found that I actually have to set time aside in my schedule to “meditate” (aka daydream) and also to transition from Computer Goddess to Mom/Honey. The dog makes that time happen. Kids are home? Time to walk the dog.

  4. I use my commute home to decompress from work. I make a mental list of what needs to be done at work the next day and what chores need to be done at home in the morning. My commute is about 20 miles/day as well most of it on the expressway.

    Day dreaming occurs when I walk the dogs in the morning or when we walk the beach on the weekend. During my vacation, I am hoping to meet a friend for a corgi beach walk. We have time to walk and talk while the dogs run up and down the beach.

    I have time in the morning to read, catch up on chores or sit on the deck with the dogs. I have learned to make time for myself– it’s not easy though! I feel better..mentally and emotionally…so it’s working.

    Can you go out to lunch with a friend on a day when you are in town for work? Schedule a riding lesson or time to ride in the next few months? Make plans to remodel your house to make it more energy efficient and work better for you? Making changes to your house requires a lot of daydreaming before the decision making piece! Take The dogs for a walk or sit outside with them and plot out a new storyline hopefully set in Scotland?

  5. I’ve been–gasp–CLEANING a lot lately and have noticed two things: my house is cleaner (DUH!) and I have been day-dreaming while I do it. I write (as of mid-August)a weekly column for my professional society’s website and this is the time I gather my thoughts for it. The column is supposed to be 700 words and often now I have to edit it down which is better than when I started having to *pad* it! I need doing something boring and repetitive to clear my mind enough to be creative….or something!

    Everyone has that *gap time* in their lives and using them to decompress or think through a problem seems to me a good use of the time.

  6. So can we expect a story featuring Napoleon’s half English daughter anytime soon?? Or is that an idea you tossed back into the imagination pond? I bet you could make it work, Grace.

    After many solutions that created more problems, I’ve learned to try to think things through a little better – and that has cut down on the problem creation. Almost 25 years ago I was confident that I HAD to take the temporary job assignment in Texas even though it would make planning a wedding in Georgia more difficult. So I went to Texas. Early on I realized that I did not need to be planning this wedding, much less going through with it. I also got to know the man I ended up happily married to. That was one potential problem that became slightly complicated but ended up much happier for all involved. 🙂

    Planning and decompression time is vital if you want to be able to function in top form — or at least it is to me. Maybe you could spend some time wandering in the neighborhood or just around the countryside and use that time to think — but only if you can do so without getting distracted by the beautiful scenery.

  7. Oh goodness! Since I’m retired I don’t really have to worry about daydreaming time as I’ve got all the time I could want. I’ve learned the hard way though when I have one of your books and I’m on a short ride on the bus I DON’T pull it out and read, when I did that with Tremain I wound up getting off the bus two stops beyond my usual one, I pretended I was going to CVS then, after crossing the street I turned around and backtracked uphill to my ultimate destination. I got some needed exercise and was thankful it was early enough in the day to be cool out and there was a good breeze. I enjoy my daydreaming time, many times while sitting in McDonald’s with a soda or coffee and reading or playing on my Kindle or computer. I also use shower time to daydream and plan as it’s cool.

  8. When I worked the commute was also time to think, but I also took time each morning to meditate. That was indeed my most creative time. Now that I’m retired, walking the dog is daydream time. I don’t tend to leave much time for my own thoughts. When I have to drive somewhere I’m usually listening to a book on tape or talking with my boyfriend. When I’m home I often get lost on the rabbit trail also known as the internet … you know, one thing leads to curiosity about another and before I know it, it’s 3 hours later. *sigh*

  9. Yes. For many years I was afraid to drive. I would ride a bicycle everywhere, so it was easy to keep my weight down. At age 39 I learned to drive, then my weight started to creep up. Now at 51 I’m making some better choices with food and exercise. In case I win, I am downloading Matthew onto my nook when I get off work today. Could I have a picture of Beesom instead? Thanks.

  10. I am very fortunate (mostly) that the company I work for is virtual, so I am able to work from home and no longer have to commute.
    In the past, I listened to books on tape during my commute and that was the only time I had for “reading”. At that time, our daughter was home and we were very active in all of her school activities, volunteering, sports, fund raising, etc.
    I had about a year off between the closing of our wine shop (my commute was about 20 to 30 minutes only) and my new job telecommuting from home.
    In that time, I had knee surgery and learned how to “relax” and sit and read! And daydream during that time as well.
    I am fortunate to have a house with a large Master Bedroom with a sitting area, and this is where I go to read and “contemplate” aka daydream!
    Grace, maybe a long soak in a tub, or a quiet sitting corner for daydreaming and meditating will help. I don’t think that it is something that you can force into a schedule.
    Another thought, is to just go and sit in your car in the garage… good ventilation of course, and you don’t have to turn the car on, but maybe just “being” in the car will bring forth your creativity!
    Good luck and thank you for your amazing creativity! LOVE all of your books and your characters!

  11. These activities create white space for me:
    Shower (I get some of my best ideas there, only thing is, no pen or paper available).

    Walking with no electronics/no music. Just nature. Okay, even suburban nature…my brain lets go and wanders around.

    Gardening – as in weeding, watering, spreading mulch. Those are all mindless activities and are very zen like.

    Knitting….very basic stuff that allows my brain to wander. As in straight knitting a plain scarf (but very pretty yarn.)

  12. I daydream when I first go to bed, and while I’m knitting, provided the knitting is just stockinette. I used to do it when driving, but it scared me when I realized I didn’t remember the drive from point A to point B. So stopped that. Dangerous!

    Loved THOMAS and MATTHEW! I’m looking forward to AXEL. Fortunately for me, I’ve just recently discovered your books, so there are plenty to read until AXEL comes out.