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Thinking Time

by Rachelle Gardner
Books & Such Literary Agency

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Gen. 1:2, NIV)

Sunset ocean and clouds

I’ve always loved that tiny pause right there in Genesis 1:2, were it says “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” It feels like a moment of rest before God’s explosion of creativity begins. The Amplified Bible expands on that word “hovering” and adds the word “brooding.”

What does it mean to brood? In a literal sense, it’s when a bird covers, warms and protects her eggs in preparation for their hatching. More metaphorically, we use the word brooding to refer to turning something over in our minds; pondering; dwelling continuously on a topic.

So I imagine God hovering over this vast nothingness, feeling warm and protective and even a little worried about this baby He’s about to hatch. I imagine Him pausing right before He is about to create everything that exists, and pondering it. Turning it over in His mind. Letting His subconscious work (does God have a subconscious?), unleashing His creativity to its fullest extent before making even one brush stroke in His actual creation.

And then I ask myself: Do I have enough “hovering” time in my life?

Do I allow myself the time to ponder my creative works, to brood over the challenges and obstacles in my life and my projects? Do I create space for simply allowing my mind to work and allowing God to speak?

These days, most of us are go-go-go from the moment we wake in the morning, and on top of that, we rarely have “radio silence” in which we don’t have input of some kind. The only way we can create hovering time is to intentionally leave times in which we are silent… open to the workings of our subconscious, open to the voice of the Spirit guiding us.

I find the best times for creative idea-generating and problem-solving are:

• First thing in the morning upon waking, before even rising out of bed. If you can allow yourself at least 15 minutes between waking and rising, you may find this to be one of the most creative times of the day

• While doing menial tasks such as dishes, laundry, vacuuming. If you’re alone and you keep the TV and radio off during these times, and you set your intention on a particular creative venture or problem in your life, you may find answers bubbling up.

• While outdoors: gardening, hiking, walking, bike riding.

• While driving (if your car isn’t full of kids and you keep the stereo off).

As a writer, your life is probably very full, and when you finally have “writing time” you drop into your chair, open up your WIP and try to get right to work. But I encourage you to consider your “brooding time” to be just as important as the actual writing time, and make sure you intentionally work it into your schedule.

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

What are YOUR best brooding times?

***

Rachelle GardnerRachelle Gardner is a literary agent with Books & Such. If you’re interested in submitting a project, read her Submission Guidelines. Visit her popular blog for writers at RachelleGardner.com. You can also follow Rachelle on Facebook and Twitter.

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32 Responses to Thinking Time

  1. Pingback: You Can Do This | Rachelle Gardner

  2. Jane says:

    I do editing for a successful businessman who shared he sets time in his schedule to “think”. That was a foreign concept to me. I’d never heard anyone say that before; now, I’ve heard two people propose the idea.
    Hmmmmm

  3. carol brill says:

    I have the gift of living near the beach and brood best near the ocean whether walking on the beach, perched on a jetty or sitting in a beach chair.
    I also like to start the day by taking a few minutes in bed when I wake up to smile in the semi-dark and be grateful.

  4. Love the idea of “hovering” time. My best brooding times are outdoors, especially when I’m running.

    Thanks for the post, Rachelle!

  5. Timothy Fish says:

    None of us understand how the mind of God works, but if God can worry, that causes me great concern. God knows the end from the beginning. Before he created the world, he knew exactly how it would turn out. But you?re right. We writers need time to brood. I find that one of my best brooding times is when I?m watching television. Very little of what is on requires much thought, so my mind slips easily into whatever story I?m working on.

  6. The rat race is getting faster and more furious, and thinking time–or, as you call it, brooding time–comes at a premium nowadays.
    Years ago we had some acreage, and I did my best thinking while riding a small tractor, mowing down weeds. Those days are past, and now I think while taking walks (weather permitting). And I find that when I don’t take time to think, my creativity level sinks.
    Thanks for reminding us of this great point.

  7. Ane Mulligan says:

    I don’t always get the actual writing time I want, but I’ve found I continue to brood over the story and more often than not, I come up with the right material for a scene that I might have missed if I were actually writing it.

    Except mine isn’t upon waking up. If my feet don’t hit the floor right away, I’m back dreaming within 30 seconds. LOL

  8. Sarah Thomas says:

    While walking the dog. It’s the #1 time to figure out what happens “next” in my WIP. Or to unravel a knot I’ve accidentally tied.

    Recently in Sunday School we were talking about praying without ceasing and how impossible it seems. Mostly because we’re trying to pray about what we’re “supposed” t pray about. Friends who are struggling, the sick, the downtrodden, PROBLEMS. What if we prayed about what we were already thinking about? What if we turned our broodings over to God? It’s made my prayer life much easier and, I think, more fruitful!

  9. Ellen Parker says:

    Walking, either outside or at a local mall during bad weather, turns into my “brooding” time. This is when I am most likely to work thorough a plot point, clarify a character motivation, and return with an itch to get back to the keyboard.

  10. Jillian Kent says:

    My best brooding time is when I get out and walk in nice weather. I love that. No headphones, just listening to the sounds around me as I walk through a beautiful place. I need to do that more often. It’s so easy to let those opportunities slip past us. Maybe we should post it on our bathroom mirrors: Don’t forget to brood. :) Shower time is good too. I haven’t taken the time to luxuriate in the bathtub lately, that’s good brood time as well. I think I may have to ask your permission to steal this idea for my well writer column in May.:) Great reminder, Rachelle. Thanks!

  11. I have often wondered how long that hovering of the Spirit of God lasted, but I had never thought of that application before. With six children, my time for quiet is often the same time as the mindless tasks, like showering and brushing my teeth. I keep a notebook and pen on my dresser for when I need to jot something down. Thank you so much for the new thoughts today.

  12. The New York Writers Workshop must be onto something in their “Portable MFA in Creative Writing.” They have inadvertently followed the example of the Creator in recommending one very important step: Write. Read. REFLECT. Revise. We often skip this step; yet I find if I do, it takes me much longer to arrive at my deepest thoughts and to discern what needs to be said. I have to allow myself time for reflection, stepping entirely away from a project to let it percolate in my mind. As I go throughout the reflection process, I utilize all your ideas as I mull it over. But for me, a walk in the beauty of God’s creation is the best–His own inspired work untangles the threads.

  13. BK Jackson says:

    This is one of the most difficult things to do. Unlike most, I need to focus on one thing at a time. I can’t do errands and think about my story. And when I’m walking the dog, I’m too busy keeping her in line to think about anything but being dragged off after another dog. 8-) Besides, I have to think on paper or computer, odd as it sounds.

    So it is an absolute must for me to schedule time to ponder my characters and stories, otherwise it doesn’t happen. I’ve done better at it the last few months. Partly because I’ve suffered burnout so many times in recent years that I’ve been better at committing to treating myself in small ways to breaks that help keep me refreshed.

    But scheduling thinking time isn’t optional for me, it’s required.

  14. My best brooding time is while I’m running or while driving. I love silence, so usually the radio is off and when I run, it’s never with an mp3.

    And I love the permission to simply sit back and think.

  15. Due to problems with my feet, I’ve had to give up walking for exercise. Instead, I’ve substituted swimming laps. At first I found it incredible boring. Nothing much to see. Can’t wear an ipod. Can’t carry on a conversation. But then I discovered the meditative repetition and the silence are perfect for “brooding” new ideas.

  16. I love my walks with my dog. While I often do walk to music, it’s more to block out the sounds of the city I live in than anything. With a major interstate only about a half-mile from my house, that’s pretty important!

    Even with music and car noise, I can usually do a lot of heavy thinking about my story, my characters, problems that have been plaguing me creatively. Of course, I’ve learned to have the white noise of music, tv, radio, and to be able to block it out. A great deal of my writing time is during the day with talk radio on!

  17. Susan Bourgeois says:

    I like this post. I love to brood. I spend a great deal of time brooding.

    I brood as I walk on the beach, perform household chores and numerous times throughout the day.

    I think I have now found a great epitaph for my headstone: “She was a devout brooder.”

    Joking aside, we must all take time to turn the electronic devices off. Right now, as I write, there is no outside competitive stimulation.

    No matter what age, we must disconnect in order to tap into the creative area of our brain whether it’s to search for new ideas or to explore the meaning of life.

    This is how we create balance in our lives.

  18. Amy Leigh Simpson says:

    Great post, Rachelle! And such a necessary reminder. I brainstorm best when I run. Winter months create challenges for me in that department. Hubby works more, less daylight, icy sidewalks, my aversion to treadmills…needless to say…I could use some more of this brooding time!

  19. Donna Pyle says:

    Wow, great insight on a passage that I’ve skipped through so often to get to what God created. Thanks for this great new perspective and ways to apply it!

  20. I think I brood in my sleep. (Probably because it’s the only time I allow myself to slow down.)

    My best brooding time also tends to be while I’m in the shower and outside in nature.

    Powerful thoughts here.

    And I’m going with yes, God has a subconscious. Who knows, but it’s fun to imagine Him with one.

    ~ Wendy

  21. Kim Fisch says:

    It’s amazing to allow ‘brooding time’ and see the results. The Lord and I just completed a 400+ page novel in three months. It began with several kernels of what-ifs and I allowed the Lord to steep those ideas into a full-blown plot. Oftentimes, I would ask Him what the next plan of action would be; He would ALWAYS come through and amaze me with the plot twist! I’m in the editing phase of the novel now.

    I truly enjoy my daily quiet times with the Lord, allowing Him to wake me up whenever He wants to. There are many times when He’ll wake me up with a word or phrase which is then reiterated through devotionals and His Word. Using that divine gift, I’ll write on that subject, tucking it away for future use or reference. He truly is a very real help in our time of need. “I sought the LORD, and he answered me…” Psalm 34:4

  22. Lori VanGilder says:

    This is a fantastic post that I found very reassuring. I like to think about something a lot and when I have it lined up in my brain, I’ll then commit it in writing. The best “thoughtful spot” (to quote Winnie the Pooh) is in a bubble bath. There are no chores to run and do, no interruptions; merely time to think.

  23. @Jane – Yes! Putting “think” on the schedule sounds like a great idea.

    @Timothy – You’re right, no one knows the mind of God. But knowing His compassion, I imagine Him having a little bit of worry upon creating humans, since he knew what pain and suffering would come. Not an “I don’t know what’s going to happen” kind of worry. But a “This is gonna hurt” kind of worry.

    @Sarah Thomas – Yes, sometimes I think the line between “thinking” and “praying” is an artificial one that we create. Praying without ceasing is more like having a constant awareness of God’s presence, and bringing Him in on all our thoughts.

    @Jillian – Yes, steal this idea!

  24. Lenore Buth says:

    Thanks, Rachelle, for this beautifully written post. I’ve always stopped at that verse. Something about it touched my heart, perhaps simply the thought that God took time for it. To me it speaks of tenderness.

    I love your tie-in with what we do as writers. With our words we bring into being what wasn’t there before. I’ve always known that, of course, but to couple these two images leaves me both awed and humbled.

    Thanks, too, for the reminder that I need to turn off the noise. In a time when interesting stuff comes at us from all sides, I find that harder to do.

    I’ll be cogitating on this for a long time.

  25. Sherrinda says:

    I love the idea of hovering and making time for the creative process. I have found that a busy schedule can hinder the hovering, and many times I must retrain myself to get quiet and really utilize those stolen moments to connect with the creative spirit within.

    Thank you for a beautiful post!

  26. Flora Sawyer says:

    Thanks, Rachelle!

    Although I enjoyed the brooding times during the day without constant music, etc., in the past and even encouraged others to do that, I’ve been getting into a bad habit of having my radio or something going a lot of the time lately. Not good!

    I’m encouraged to do better that way as I try to finish up my childhood story. So needed that reminder :)

  27. Lisa Jordan says:

    I come up with my best character/plot thoughts right after I wake up and wait to get out of bed. With all the busyness in my life, I don’t take as much time as I should to think. No wonder God commands us to “Be still and know I am God.”

    Great post, Rachelle.

  28. Jane Buttery says:

    I love the verse because it shows me that,from the beginning,God the creator was there with His Spirit and He spoke His Word (another name for God’s Son). The Hebrew word for God used in Genesis is Elohim (plural form for God)as I asked a Hebrew scholar.
    When I think, I get inspired by ideas, God may put there and I use my intellect in my body to work on them. I think we can understand 3 in one and take time to ‘brood’ on the words.
    I love your thoughts and hope you can follow mine here.
    I wrote ‘A Cookie for the Christ Child’ after waking from a dream about the title and then thinking what God wanted me to write. It became a book about giving at Christmas; I had a small girl give away cookies. God gave us His Son.
    God bless,
    Jane in Harrow Ontario

  29. Sue Harrison says:

    I love this scripture, Rachelle, because it tells me something about God, but, until your post, I’d never connected it to my writing life. Thank you for the inspiration!

  30. Dozie Nzewi says:

    Writing is like cooking, there is a minimum time for it to be done. You add, you cook, you add, you cook. When you run out of ideas, let it cook some more. As you enjoy the aroma you’ll break out in ideas.

  31. Reminds me of Anne Lamott saying you have to take time to stare out the window if you’re going to be an artist.

    I love the picture of God brooding of His plans to create . . .

  32. Joanne Kraft says:

    One word – WALKING. For some strange reason, when I get outside and march around the neighborhood my mind clears and declutters.

    Wish I enjoyed exercise a little more. I might just have to get in shape to produce my next book!