“What no wife of a writer can ever understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.”  ~Burton Rascoe

Sometimes, when you’re staring at the blank screen, asking the gods to deliver a solution to your latest writing dilemma, nothing comes. Other times, you’ll be going about your day, doing the dishes, walking the dog, or staring out the window, and the solution presents itself so nicely and prettily that you wonder how you didn’t think of it before.

“The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.”  ~Agatha Christie

As writers, we spend a lot of time in our own heads, living in worlds that, at present, only we can see. Then, we jot down as much as possible of that experience, spinning the threads of those worlds and stories of the people we meet in them into a place our readers can visit.

I often feel that time spent “daydreaming” is frivolous, a wasted opportunity to meet a word count or be productive. Yet sometimes it’s in those spots of frivolity that a much-needed epiphany occurs.

I have a habit of scribbling notes on yellow legal pads.

I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. It might be story ideas, bits of description or dialogue that float by, or lists. I love lists: lists of stories I want to write, lists of places I want to visit, lists of things I need or want to do. These yellow legal pads allow me to get the clutter out of my head so that I can refocus on my writing. But every once in a while, in the course of scribbling, I discover a shiny bit of treasure.

That happened this week. I was thinking about which stories I wanted to focus on writing this year, and I began mulling over a novella I started last year. Now, I really loved that story—loved and felt drawn toward the characters, was intrigued by the concept, liked the world it was set in. It was a fantasy story about witches and magic gone tragically awry, a struggle to make peace with the past and forge a way forward. You know, one about being human.

But as a story, it had issues. I couldn’t figure out how to sustain it, much as I loved the characters. So I set it aside. And then, while I was doodling, daydreaming, letting my mind wander, it occurred to me that the story could be more powerful as a longer short story. If it couldn’t sustain 30K, surely these characters and their plight would make a fitting story of 15K. I jotted this idea down, finished my list, and went back to work.

I’m glad I made this discovery. I hated abandoning that story, but I couldn’t see a path forward, and now I do. For now, I’m focused on another WIP, but perhaps later this year, those characters will get their story told after all.

Has this ever happened to you?

ROW80 check-in

ROW80Logocopy1.)   Wrote 405 words in WIP, “Good, Old-Fashioned Magic.” I took Monday off from writing to finish some financial housekeeping matters—namely, my taxes. Ugh. At least that’s done. I’m a little behind for this week, but progress is progress.

2.)   Continued reading Julia Cameron’s “Walking in this World” and doing corresponding exercises. Still need to do the character exercises for Donald Maass’ “The Fire in Fiction.”

3.)   Blogging Wednesdays and Sundays: So far, so good.

4.)   Check in on Twitter: Accomplished for Tuesday, not Monday.

5.)   Comment on 5-6 blog posts per day: Done, both Monday and Tuesday.

6.)   Super-secret project: Nada. Zip. Zilch. Maybe I’ll have more time for this later in the week.

A Round of Words in 80 Days (ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow ROW80 participants.

How are your writing goals coming along? And do you find daydreaming to be a surprisingly productive part of your process?