For me, the process of conceptualization when writing is like a stream of consciousness exercise but in my case, it’s more a stream of strategy: the piecing together of myriad ideas across a broad spectrum of events and genres.
I’ve always found it easy—kind of like the film A Beautiful Mind where patterns are seen everywhere but in my case rather than advanced math, it’s cause-and-effect.
I wrote a while back about the need to plan reading in advance for fear of losing the train of thought: concluding a book, intending to pick up the next block of reading, then getting sidetracked and ultimately derailed.
When this happens (and trust me it will), the antidote is a break.
Other than a big overseas trip (really hard to just pick up and go) I find my solace in hobbies, and one in particular: simulations. I immerse myself in games of war.
For me they’re not only superb vehicles for the study of history but like role playing, the more serious titles in the genre put me squarely in the shoes of key decision makers—generals or in my recent case, those of Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin competing to bring a global peace in World War 2.
After a few sessions on and off over the course of some days, clarity is the reward. I begin to picture problems afresh, ones I’d like to explore in my writing—subjects for complete features spanning thousands of words. I’m then able to look at my shelves and pick up a thought where I might have left off.
The maxim still holds true. Write every day. But this doesn’t mean you can’t reenergize and reinvigorate the synapses as well.
Stephen King counsels long daily walks. Other artists recommend strict, unbreakable daily writing schedules with regular life in between. Others suggest a change of daily vista, at the extreme a sabbatical. For some it’s merely a different reading chair.
Give me a rulebook and a set of dice.