When NOT to Take Notes
As game masters and role players, we live in a world of notes. We jot, scribble and scrawl everything from dungeon maps to stat blocks to scratched-out hit points and existential backstories. Our hobby has many glorious trappings, but none more pervasive, humble, and forever free-from-charge as our notes.
And yet, sometimes these lists and flowcharts change from our tools to our prison. So vigorously do we strive for new ideas, or the accurate recording of happenings, the conscious mind takes control. We are hyper-aware of what we do, what's next, and what happened before. The conscious mind, our daily mind, is good at knowing things. It's good at notes.
That same mind, though, is terrible with creativity.
I live a life of daily creative struggle. My fridge winds up empty if I get a 'writer's block' or a creative slump. My notes are my livelihood! So you can imagine my fear when considering taking almost a full month away from the journal, away from the drawing pad, away from the laptop. Was I turning my back on all the good fortune and hard work of previous years? A lazy bum, justifying torpor with hokum philosophy? When I set out on this noteless journey, I had no idea what would happen.
Now, with that break in my rearview mirror, I have my answers. Put simply, it's been a supernova of creative energy.
Just staring at rocks, thinkin'
In our hyper-stimulated modern lives, one of the most elusive skills is that of prolonged critical thinking. Absorption is our new chic... we absorb with amazing prowess, but to simply sit, idle, looking at some inert view of nature, and actually ponder? That's the last thing our social-media overlords want us doing, and so the skill has withered. Give it a try, and in thirty seconds you'll see just how challenging it is to just THINK.
After three or four days, if removed from one's hectic daily obligations and inputs, the skill begins to form. You'll be settling in, giving yourself a topic, and exploring options and new directions. For me, I was able to get a solid hour of simply thinking done after a week of practice. THIS is the time to NOT TAKE NOTES.
You will be dying with temptation! As the vistas of internal monologue and deeper critical thought skills reveal themselves... oh, the wonders and breakthroughs! Where's my notebook? Is there a napkin around? Eureka!
So, if the dividends of prolonged pondering are so surprising, and get us where we need to be with projects and ideas, why refuse the pen? Why lose these deep thoughts to the cloud of fuzzy memories and partial plans? The answer is simple: to keep going.
Notes, though handy as hell, petrify our ideas. Our thoughts become artifacts. As such, they lose priority in the ol' gulliver. Processing power is limited, time to move on! By not writing a thing down, you enter a 'keep going or lose it' state. This trick works wonders on the subconscious think tank. You keep pressing in, you dig deeper, you question and question again, you refuse to cast the metal until the mold is perfected. Another improvement here, a shortcut to better results there. You refine the idea in silence, in your head, to the utmost.
Ok, ok, you can write it down now. But wait, the magic has already happened! In pressing your think-before-record, you have improved your thinking skill. Your deeper brain should be sore, building new muscles.
This past month has been wild... stare at rocks, think, repeat.
Take a break, get some 'me' time, think deep and let it abide. It's worked wonders for me, heading into another season of creativity this fall. I think you'll be surprised what awaits when you put down the pen and lean back.