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Thinking In Blocks

Feb 4, 2008
I have always been a very organized person--on the outside. On the inside is an entirely different story. I am, at best, "scattered". My mind, my thoughts, my emotions are constantly all over the place. By the time I have caught up with one thought, I have many more waiting in line to process. I might be said to suffer from "chronic information overload".

The challenge has always been to take the disorganized mess on the inside and present it to the outside world in a manner that will make sense. Computers have made this process easier because of software programs designed to help organize endless stacks of random information. About 10 years ago now, I started learning how to program in order to write my own custom software solutions to deal with the various forms of information floating around in my head. I have written some software to deal with this, and am continuing to write and test more applications built around this need.

I'm not writing this to talk about software though. The purpose of this article is to talk about the method to the madness. I'm going to attempt to bring a sense of order to the mess; to give you a couple of tools that will set your thinking free, and let your mind rest.

Let Random Be Random

The first step to "thinking in blocks" is to simply let random thoughts stay random. Learn to enjoy and appreciate every idea, every morsel of thought that crosses your mind. Sometimes you'll think good things, sometimes you'll think horrible, scary things. Each thought, each piece of the infinite puzzle, is a precious and valuable part of "you". I spent a great deal of my life trying to "not be so scatter-brained". I have finally realized that being "scatter-brained" is indeed a gift, and is something that I can learn to both appreciate and use. Is your mind all over the place? Let it be. Sometimes one activity will make more sense to you, sometimes another. For months you might lean more towards one interest, and then shift entirely to something else. Fine. Great. Perfect. It's a great way to be. Enjoy the variety and the change of scenery, and don't stress about it if you lose a bit of the mess here and there. It's usually still there anyways, and worrying about losing it isn't going to help you hang on to the rest of those random ingenious ideas you have floating around in your head.

The Part, Not The Whole

The second thing that we have to do to apply "thinking in blocks" is to realize that getting the "big picture" doesn't necessarily mean capturing every morsel of thought all at once. If you try to get a handle on everything at once, you will likely stress yourself out, and maybe even give yourself a headache. Instead, I have found that the more focused I am, the less overwhelming everything seems to be. Seeing the "big picture" isn't so much having "grand vision" as it is being able to see each piece of the puzzle in focus--one piece at a time.

Sometimes we get caught up in the "whole", while the only thing necessary is to focus on the "part" that is before us currently. Right now, this moment, this screen, this word... bringing one thing into focus, in the end, is often far more beneficial than seeing the whole picture in a blur.

The second step then, to thinking in blocks, is to pick a part--any part, and focus on that. Focus on it for as long or as short of a time as you need to. Analyze it. Pick it apart. Do what you need to do, for whatever time you have. Even taking a few minutes each day and applying this idea can yield amazing results in your creativity, not to mention every other area of your life.

Putting The Puzzle Together

Once you start to get an idea of what each piece of the puzzle looks like, you can then start to put pieces together as you come across ones that fit. The more pieces you find that fit together, the easier it will be to find a home for the other loose pieces floating about. The biggest difference between this puzzle and any other puzzle that you'll ever put together, is that YOU are the one who decides what fits and what doesn't, and YOU are the one who ultimately decides what your picture will look like in the end. You are not limited by the picture on the box.

One of my 2 1/2 year old son's favorite things to do is to play blocks. He has these little blocks made of clear plastic, with all sorts of objects and creatures on the inside. Each block has it's own unique characteristics, and works quite well as a stand-alone toy for any two-year-old. As we put the blocks together, they start to tell another story (usually a "tower" or a "fence" if my son is the one doing the building). The thing to remember in this third stage of thinking in blocks, is that while each block, each thought, each piece of the puzzle has it's own story to tell, the collection of blocks (or a portion of it) can be shaped and molded, arranged and organized in such a way that it tells an entirely new story.

In writing, the job of the author at this stage is just to relax and tell the story. Don't get caught up too much in details... just let each piece speak for itself, and let your pen and your heart determine what the picture will look like in the end.
About the Author
To learn more about the software designed for this method of writing, visit the author's website: Text Block Author: Software For Writers.
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