I've always suspected that taking time out, exercising, doing something entirely different can refresh the brain. But here's the proof.
Every year, as the weather warms and the danger of frost lessens, my husband begins to make noises about gardening. For the most part, he takes on this responsibility, but he knows I don't like him running amok with the secateurs and loppers. I am the pruner in our family. Over the lovely sunny weekend we have just enjoyed, the mentions that 'we' needed to do the cutting-back, increased.
The timing - as always - was bad. I am very busy at the moment. Currently I am in the process of preparing two books for publication. One of them needs a thorough copy-edit and a cover design etc, but the other needs even more radical attention. I am not just trying to reformat it, and to eliminate all the weird things I did while typing it onto the computer (errors which cannot be rectified automatically with Find & Replace) but I am updating the plot and also doing some drastic cutting.
The amount I need to cut is at least 40K words. So imagine my joy last week when I discovered a duplicated chapter - almost a quarter of the excess words gone in one fell swoop. And since then I've discovered another duplicated section. A second 'Whoohoo!' moment. I've not yet finished going through this tome and there's still a way to go in my 'word-cutting project', but over the weekend I arrived at a point in the plot which needs more extensive revision and updating than anything I've done so far. The trouble was, I couldn't see how to do it. I was stuck. I fiddled around the edges, I thought about it, I did some social-networking (my displacement activity of choice) but the problem didn't go away.
I agreed that I would sacrifice my writing / social-networking time to a few hours of gardening. Despite the lovely weekend it's been chilly and misty in Gloucestershire this week, but on Monday and Tuesday out I went in my gardening fleece with my trusty secateurs in hand. It was strenuous work. We have quite a few hardy fuscias, buddleias and patio and shrub roses, as well as a pergola of climbing roses. As I cut out the tangled branches, clearing the muddled centres, untangling and shortening long brambly stems, nipping out those weedy side shoots that won't come to anything, so the knotty plot problem I was wrestling with in my writing began to resolve itself. Perhaps the act of cutting out the tangled growth and cutting back and shortening each rose to a sturdy skeleton, had a similar effect on my thought processes? Who knows?