I've always heard people say "you should drive to and from work without music on once in a while. You'll think so much more." I get that. But what if the whole point of listening to Sirius or the radio or your playlist is to zone out? To stop thinking. On the way to work, you may be gearing up for the day by listening to music. During the day you forced your synapses to connect or fire or whatever. That shit is hard! So on the way home, you deserve a little Kendrick or Weezer or, God help you, Taylor Swift. Even if you're more the CNN or Howard Stern or talk radio type, your brain is zoning out while you listen.
Recently, I found myself in the position of having two outlines for two different projects due at the same time. Nightmare. One was an outline for the show I work on (a one hour dramedy) and the other was a two hour movie that could become a series. In total, I was looking at writing about 49 pages of scenes. To help get them done, I decided to try the no music thing during my drive and get this--- I REALLY DID THINK. My mind did wander once or twice but mostly I hatched up ideas. I would jot them down once I got to work or when I got home. I actually tried doing this a few times and found it to be productive. Whole storylines came to me inside my Volkswagen with the windows up.
Some of you writers may have already harnessed the power of silence. I'm usually a step behind. The amazing thing about sitting in silence while thinking about writing is that you start to see story and characters more clearly. It's similar I suppose to meditation in that you're forcing yourself to think about one thing and clearing your mind of all else. Or at least that's what I did. I would start my car, make sure no music was on and then think about one character's storyline. Just that storyline. Or I'd think about one character's emotional arc. Just that arc. You're still able to observe the rules of the road. You're still taking in other drivers. You just have consistent images in your head. This silent driving was good for my writing and my mind. Good for my writing because I came up with ideas I ended up using and good for my mind because I felt less anxious about time management if I did this silent story work in my car.
I've also started doing guided meditation at night to help me fall asleep and find that to be helpful as well. I can feel my body relaxing with each prompt. It can be difficult to keep my mind from wandering to other subjects and as an insomniac, I can say that this doesn't always prove to be a failsafe for sleep. But, focusing on the one thing--relaxing (usually by breathing a certain way) is beneficial. You don't realize how noisy a place your mind is until you're being asked to focus on just taking air into your nose and expelling it through your mouth. Notions of holiday preparation--banished! Ideas about renovating my kitchen--be gone. Thoughts regarding my husband's weird sleep conversations --later! If you let it, silence can be restorative for your mind, your body and your writing.