At my day job, we listen to Pandora all day. Because there are at least four people hitting the “thumbs-up” and “thumbs-down” buttons on our station, Pandora tends to get confused about our preferences. Today, it played a song from the Amelie soundtrack (entirely instrumental and featuring an accordion) followed immediately by The Police.
Sometimes, this is annoying. Like when I’m really in the mood for classic 80s rock and get hit with the theme song from Lord of the Rings instead. But the benefit of this schizophrenia is that I discover music I wouldn’t normally seek out on my own personal Pandora stations. Today, along with the aforementioned songs, I heard one that the main character of my work-in-progress would *love.* By the time the chorus rolled around, I said to myself, “Now THAT’s what she’d have on her iPod.” I created my own Pandora station from the artist, and I spent all evening listening to my character’s music, getting deeper into her head.
The whole experience has me thinking about the things we seek out versus the things we discover, and how being too focused about our goals can make us miss really fascinating side trips. If not for the randomness of my workplace Pandora station, I never would have heard this song, because my characters don’t always listen to the same music I do. It’s a trivial example of a more important point: In any creative field, it’s important to have “wandering time,” periods when you don’t have a specific goal—or even the hope of a goal—to distract you. Seeking out information is important, but it’s just as important to let your mind wander, trusting instinct and luck to bring you somewhere interesting.
I try to build “wandering time” into my life by getting semi-lost on long walks, cruising through bookstore sections I don’t normally visit, and, yes, listening to radio stations I typically don’t like.
How do you wander?