When Do You Let Your Creative Pooch Off the Leash?

Animal strokes ... Leonardo da Vinci's Studies of a dog's paw, about 1485. Photograph: The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Where do you go to dream up that killer plot twist? I own a restless mind, and like a puppy scrounging for a toy, it’s always off on an adventure somewhere. During my working hours I reign it in, focusing on the task at hand. Oddly, I have a structured and logical side, and I think this takes control in my school situations. Yet when I take off the dog chain and let it loose, my inner puppy romps all over creation.

Over the years, I’ve learned to channel this rampaging creative force. Direct it toward solving difficult writing problems that stymie my logical side. Usually, what I do is mull over a problem, maybe read a few pages of my manuscript in progress and then give my brain time to work.

What works best is showers. I’m stuck there for fifteen minutes. I can’t write, so my left-brain can’t ruin things by trying to put it all into words. Usually when I emerge, a soppy mess, I rush to a pad of paper and jot the whole thing down in one mind dump. So far this technique has never failed me.

I also find that driving produces the same results for the same reason. I can’t write. This leaves my mind free to explore the permieter of the yard inside my head, sniffing and digging the dirt. I often mind myself stopping in a parking lot and unloading on whatever scrap of paper I have. If you ever see me parked and writing, don’t come near. I’m working.

One time, on a drive to Disneyland, there was nowhere to pull over. Thank goodness my phone has a record feature. I must have put down a dozen tiny recordings. Some no more than a few words. My wife must have thought me insane. At least I kept my eyes on the road.

I used to settle in coffee houses for the same effect. Though with the rise of Starbucks, most independent java joints have vanished. Plus I brew my own killer cups at home these days.

So what about you? Where do you let your creative pooch off the leash? Does the dog deliver the goods, fetching back trinkets of character or plot for you to use?

Tim Kane