For most aspiring writers, the problem is finding time to write. Everything I’ve read about writing, and I’ve read a lot, recommends cutting everything out of your life except writing. At the most, you may be allowed to keep one outside activity. Sacrifice is the key word. You must sacrifice your book club, your gym workouts, time spent with family and friends, cooking dinner every night, watching TV. You must sacrifice all these and lay them on the altar of The Writing Project.
But at this point in my life, I have the time. I don’t have a job. My children are grown and gone. I have my own quiet space to write. So the only thing holding me back is choosing a topic. It’s not that I can’t think of a topic. The problem is choosing one of several topics I’d like to write about.
How do I go about doing that?
A couple of days ago I was reading an article by a neuroscientist. He talked about a phenomenon we’ve all experienced: when you focus on a problem, the solution can be quite elusive. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you suddenly know what to do. Or that name you couldn’t think of pops into your mind, hours or even days after you quit thinking about it. According to the neuroscientist, your subconscious mind was working on it all along, unbeknownst to you.
I’m hoping the same phenomenon works in decision-making. So for the past couple of days I’ve tried not to think about what to write. I just tossed it out there, like Noah releasing the dove. I trust that my subconscious is grinding away at the problem. So far, I haven’t had any revelations. Perhaps the answer might not appear as a revelation. Perhaps it will be more understated. Perhaps I need to pay attention to subtle hints or piece together mysterious clues. But then, doesn’t this bring me back to consciously thinking about solutions, instead of relying on my subconscious to do the work?
No doubt I’m overthinking this whole decision-making process. When the right topic comes along, I'll just know. Or I need to close my eyes, choose a topic, and see where it goes. Just jumping in sometimes works surprisingly well.
So here I am, still waiting for that revelation. I’d settle for just a whisper or a nudge. I’m trying not to dwell on it. But it’s like telling yourself not to think about an elephant.