Todays lifestyles are often about excess but when it comes to writing and to learning, there needs to be a break so that you can think about and absorb the information you’ve learnt. Here’s 3 important habits for writing and for learning:
1. Depth vs. surface.
Writing and learning takes a lot of brain power. In fact so much so that most writers begin to crave food after or during writing. The difference between deep and surface learning is similar to the difference between deep and surface writing. If you are writing in a rush, you may only skim the surface of what you really want to say. This is fine, of course. Sometimes you only want to give an overview but deep writing requires a little more of yourself and so does deep learning. It requires reflection of thoughts, feelings and ideas. Particularly if you are writing a long novel you may need to give yourself time to think and form ideas when you’ve hit an obstacle point.An obstacle point is usually that point when you are writing a story and think okay what now? or where is this going?, how do I continue from this point?
As creative writing uses imagination it requires a more creative process of thinking and learning, often called insight learning in which you imagine forward how a situation might progress or a problem might be solved rather than using trial and error. Again, trial and error is also fine, sometimes in fact it’s the only way forward but this need for insight learning for creative writing is often why writers struggle to stick to specific plans and wordcounts and other organizational thinking when trying to write. Basically you are trying to apply one type of thinking to an activity that often requires more abstract, theoretical thinking. So if you are stuck at a certain point, let yourself continue thinking or daydreaming. Or even forget about the problem for a while and it may just come to you.
2. Learning and Play
Learning doesn’t have to be a strict process either. Following on from tip 1, learning can be deeper if a larger understand of the topic is learned rather than strict specifics. For example, sometimes it is absolutely important to know specific information about a topic but if you don’t understand the overall topic you will be limited in how much you can play with it. One of the reasons I always advocate play and leisure as well as writing and learning is for the particular reason that play is often entwined with learning. Language play is particularly important and the scholar David Crystal gives a lot of detailed information about how much of this is embedded in everyday life and language learning. Considering this relationship it seems that play is the often overlooked area of learning and in writing this is also important. Having noted that there is sometimes a temptation to be too indulgent when writing. How often have you watched a film or read a book which seemed excessively long and felt like the writer was getting carried away with it. Sometimes a little restraint can be useful, particularly in useful where you risk losing a reader if you allow for too much of your own wish fulfilment in the story.
Rest is probably one of the most neglected areas in today’s world. We are expected to work and sleep, work and sleep, but rest doesn’t just apply to sleep it applies also to play and allowing for some down time for the brain. Regular activity is important. Playing all the time is not necessarily a good thing, yet as anyone who is studying or working knows, the brain needs time to assimilate learnt information and play is a good time to let this happen unconsciously. Often because you are not focussing on what you have learned or done, you allow time for deeper levels of learning and higher level thinking. Without this down time you may become irritable and find difficulty concentrating at all so don’t forget not to work all the time!