The expression “sleep on it” is not bullshit. It’s true. In order to think productively, one must have time away from stimulation, away from input. But also one needs time to subconsciously process. But really what’s happening is not so much that problems are actually being worked out subconsciously, but rather, the ideas are just hovering there in the back of your mind. And so they inform your perception of new experiences and information that comes in. For example, you go to buy a car, and you can’t decide which one to buy. Red or black. Red or black. You don’t know, so you put it off. Two days later, someone bakes you a beautiful chocolate cake with green frosting. The cake turns into an eagle and flies off saying, “When you see me again, you will be a different man, and your first son will be a great leader of men.” But the frosting, the frosting on the cake was definitely green. And the cake was delicious. Two days later, someone says, what color car you want? And you say, “Uh, green? Yeah, I want green. A green car. I want a green car. I won’t settle for anything else. It must be green!” See, simple.
All the time you weren’t thinking about it, your brain was still vaguely aware that colors were an important issue. Even though you weren’t aware of it, your brain was making notes on all the colors it was seeing. During the next two days, those two bits of information, “I want a car” and “I like green” moved ever closer to each other, on that great synapse highway. Until finally, they found each other, made out, and came up to the surface for a smoke, which is right about when you said, “I want a green car.” In summary, your brain is fornicating, right behind your back, all the time, and it’s disgusting! But it’s all for a good cause. Caution: bigger ideas take longer (up to seven months in some cases).
And what about the internet? And email. There are many reasons why email is so much less satisfying than real mail, but one of them is the lack of time spent processing the information received and formulating a response. Email encourages you to immediately respond to new messages in a frantic Tetris-like attempt to keep down your inbox. This makes you want to simply frap responses back to everything that comes your way. Lengthy responses indicate either that you have too much free time or you haven’t thought much about your response, or both. Short responses indicate you are either important and busy, or you’re giving people short shrift, or both. No one ever wins. I myself have a horrendous habit of fragging responses. This is when you answer each answerable portion of an email as you go like a line item veto. Yes. No. Yes. Maybe. I even re-insert the little >’s in order to distinguish their words from mine. All of this is harmful. And yet I do it.