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One of the things I never expected when I transitioned into writing was the sheer number of difficult days that are involved in the writing process. When I first thought I wanted to become a full-time writer, I was most familiar with the days or moments when the stories ideas flow, when the words sing in my mind’s ear, when it feels like the world of writing is the Happiest Place on Earth.

O! The awakening!

Years ago, when I was working in innovation, I learned about a model that Walt Disney was said to have used in approaching his creations. (I had also worked briefly at The Walt Disney Company, and although I had never heard this anecdote while I was there, I was wonderstruck by how a grown man of his time dreamed up such magical things and made them come to life.)

The story about Walt is that in the development of his new ideas, he would gather people (think: Imagineers) into three different rooms. The most important tenet was that each room was only to be used for one specific function:

Ideas began in the Dreamer Room. Dreamers would consider the blue-sky opportunities and let their imaginations run wild of what could be done without limitations. His team would spend time in the Dreamer Room exhausting the possibilities and stretching their imaginations.

The next room was the Realist Room. The group would migrate physically and intellectually out of the Dreamer Room to the Realist Room. In this room, these same people would identify practical considerations for the ideas that they had germinated. For example, they might compare and evaluate the value of one versus the other or identify what more information they might need to fully consider this idea.

The last and final room was the Critics’ Room. Here, people put on their critical lenses and began to scope out the hurdles and challenges such as cost or feasibility. The barriers to making an original Dream real were identified in this room.

What I love about Walt’s approach is how each room is a phase that is equally important but distinct in the creative process.

As a writer, sometimes I find myself starting to listen to the Realist’s or the Critic’s voice in my head before I have let the Dreamer’s idea bud and grow. For me personally, it takes work and self-discipline to force myself to stay in the Dreamer room, this room of play, and to allow the what-if process to happen. My natural tendency is to let the Realist and Critic rush into the Dreamer’s room and start talking, and when they do they start to say things like:

“Yes, but how would you end such a premise?”

“No one wants to read about…”

“How could you possibly…?”

“Someone has already written something like this but better…I should just stop…”

As I continue on my writing journey, every day I learn that the more I know myself, the better my writing (and this publishing process) becomes because I know my own tendencies, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, crutches, and yes, even strengths.

Which is your favorite room? Which is the room you tend to gravitate towards, even if it’s not your favorite? Which room do you need to get out of? In which should you spend more time?

If you’re like me, let yourself play more. Write without regard. Give yourself the room to enjoy the Happiest Place on Earth.