It’s 5:19 in the morning, and I am at my writing desk. Since it’s still dark out, I have a candle lit and my lava lamp is fired up, providing enough light to see the keys but not enough to destroy the ambiance of darkness. I also have a vase full of daffodils and trimmings from a Japanese Spindle by the window.
The house is quiet. I have coffee. I am in my writer’s happy place.
Last week, after I posted about immersing myself into a new writing project while at an artists’ colony, my friend and fellow writer Leslie Budewitz asked, “Any tricks for recreating that balance now that you’re back home? Always the post vacation or retreat challenge….”
What Leslie noted is so true. How many times do you return home from a conference feeling newly charged, but the charge dies in the face of the work-home-writing challenge? Or, your energy is renewed for a few weeks, but eventually peters out and you are back to slogging at it, or scratching out free moments to write? If you don’t have a pending deadline, what drives you to keep working diligently and making the time?
I can tell you what has been working for me. It’s all up there in my first paragraph. It’s all mental.
“It’s 5:19 in the morning” – This is my most creative time. I wake up perky and obnoxious, and I can’t wait to sit at my desk. If I wait too long to get started, my spark is gone, so I get here first and close the door, before distractions can happen.
“I’m at my writing desk….” – I am lucky to have an office devoted to my editing business. I have to make a mental change when I create, as opposed to when I work, so I edit in one place and write in another. If you only write, your office or desk should be where you only write.
“darkness…lit candle…lava lamp…flowers…ambiance….” – This is stage setting. This is woo-woo. I surround myself with things I like. I remove all distractions and create the scene I want to create. It has nothing to do with what I’m writing, but it makes me feel like a Writer.
For me, it’s all a head game. Once I sit in this chair, in this room, surrounded by these things, at this time of day, I become The Writer. But getting here is a very purposeful decision. I could just as easily be downstairs watching Good Morning America, or going for a walk, or editing. I’m up here, being The Writer, because I have made that conscious choice, prioritized it, and made it happen.
How can you do this, for your life and your individual needs and circumstances? Here are a few questions to ponder:
~When is your best time to create? If you know it, identify it and use it for writing only. Is it early morning, before the family wakes up? Evenings? Another friend and fellow writer Edith Maxwell did Writing Fridays, devoting her day off to a full day of writing. She was focused and productive because she’d set aside the full day to the one purpose of writing.
~What if your best time to create is not available because of your day job or home commitments? Go to Plan B: What time is available? You may have to make do with what you can. If so, identify that available time, and make a promise to devote that available time to writing.
~What do you need to do to make your work space more focused and friendly? What physical things, if any, give you comfort and inspiration? Find them. Plunk them down in front of you.
~Get rid of the distractions. Notice I don’t mention to-do lists on my writing desk. No menus, bills, critiques due, grocery lists, etc. Those are all in a different place.
~Turn off the Internet, the phone, the television, the iPad. There’s no trick for this other than to apply your backbone.
~If there are people in your life who will interrupt you, inform them you’ll be at your desk for X amount of time. Make them respect your time by respecting it yourself.
Set the stage. Sit in the stage. Write.
This is what works for me. But there is one more thing that is necessary to all of this, and that is falling in love–and staying in love–with your story.
For more on that, you’ll have to come back next week.