The Gassy Gnoll: The Impermanence of Thought and How To Use It to Beat the Block

The Gassy Gnoll has been tired lately and had far too much time to think when he should have been sleeping. This is hardly ever a good thing when it happens. But for some reason he’s been very philosophical and introspective of late. Recently that led to a strange train of thought…

How would you characterize an idea that just pops into your head? Was it deliberate? Were you brainstorming and trying to generate ideas of a particular type? Was it accidental and just a stray thought while you were off doing something else? Either way if you’re anything like me, these brief thoughts flit through your mind like a shooting star. Lighting up the night sky for just a moment. The briefest flash.

Gassy Gnoll

Gassy Gnoll

If you’re lucky, you caught a glimpse of that idea and it led you on a merry chase to some strange, wonderful, and often irrelevant conclusion. If you were unlucky, it zipped by and you were lacking the time or materials to ponder it then and there or even write it down so you could reconsider it later in an attempt to rekindle that line of thinking. And we’re left waiting a while for the next one to appear.

When we catch
one of these flashes, we interpret it in some random way based upon past experiences. What does it mean? What might it represent? Why does it matter? Sometimes it’s a dead end. Sometimes it spawns other ideas or thoughts and you could spend a lifetime chasing them all down.

Once we’ve mulled over an idea, we often want to share it with someone else – communicating our perceptions of these brief flashes so that someone else might perceive it in a similar way. Each communication then becomes a shooting star in someone else’s mind… No two sparks ever occur the same way though we like to think we have a shared vision. Each interpretation is unique and special.

And this is all a good thing. Why? Because there should never be such a thing as writer’s block or not having an idea if we’re truly paying attention.

Every day our brains are awash with sensory perceptions, any one of which could spark a brilliant idea that could change the world forever or simply help you figure out what you want to eat at the next mealtime. Does that mean that every flash is a brilliant idea? Heck no. But the trick is to harness those flashes and tie them to whatever project you need to work on.

For me, I seem to get strange ideas in weird places. Driving to a soccer practice. Doing some grocery shopping. Reading a book. Watching television. Sleeping. Literally any time of the night or day. Each may lead to a new NPC, a plot hook, a strange device, a whole new world, or who knows what else.

And here’s the kicker: Most of it is forgotten or lost.

But if that happens I don’t stress about it. There are always more ideas. Maybe I simply wasn’t listening hard enough in the first place. I’ll just try a little harder to catch the next one. Or the one after that…

Do I meditate? Or enter a trance? Or sit in front of the keyboard for hours on end, fingers hovering over the keys? Nope. I just live my life and see what comes. It doesn’t have to be brilliant. It just has to BE.

Complaining about writer’s block is moot. It won’t get you anywhere. Change your scenery. Go for a walk. Read or listen to a book. Talk with friends. See a movie. Get out of your chair and explore your senses. Just be ready for random ideas at any time. Do they seem irrelevant? Cool. Sometimes those are the best ones that lead you on wild trips through strange country.

Just open up and take it all in. Who knows when following one of those brief shooting stars will be just the idea you were looking for?

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