Did you ever stop to think that writing might be more than just the time you spend at your desk? Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to sit down and write.
Wander. Bake. Doodle. Do something else.
This month at the book club we’re reading The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair. Here’s a whodunit that features not one, but two writers who have to stare down a nasty case of writer’s block. The “Writer’s Disease” as the author, Joel Dicker calls it. These two fictional novelists sit in front of their empty pages as days turn into weeks. You can taste the desperation.
Can’t relate to having endless hours to stare at the blank page?
Neither can I. How interesting to meet a character in a novel who has all the time you could imagine to write. Imagine renting a beach property and having no financial or family obligations to nag at you for a month…ok a week.
Alright, even that’s hard to imagine. Really, when is the last time you’ve had even an uninterrupted day to sit down and write? Maybe that’s all for the best. Because sitting down to write is only part of the story.
My writing time comes in stolen hours, in fractured moments. I find ‘silence’ by putting on headphones or by waking up in the wee hours. And now that I’m dealing with some chronic pain issues, I literally can’t sit and write for long. You?
Here’s the thing: I think this is just what writers look like today.
And I think we can still write beautiful things if we remember something simple and sane…
When you’re short on time to write, you can’t afford to stare at an empty page.
I would like to propose a kinder way of gathering inspiration and finding our words. It’s more fun, less likely to push you over the brink of sanity. It’s my favorite way to stay productive as a writer. And? It’s a little trick that will help you add something, well extra to your writing.
Plus, I’ll show you how I did this with one of my most recent poems and a romp through the French countryside in May. Maybe it sounds nuts. Fine. But it’s nuts with a side of fun.
Care to join me?
What if the most important part of your writing doesn’t take place at your desk?
I’ve written before about how important it is to actually go out and live your moments if you want to capture them on the page. And how engaging in mindful play while your creative ideas simmer somewhere in your consciousness can boost your creativity. Today we’re going to talk about something slightly different. This is a process for using non-writing time and mindful play to help you develop and idea further. A way to focus on your writing while, well, not writing at all.
Step one: Start with an inkling.
We’ll start with an idea that seems worthwhile. A story or poem idea worth exploring. A blog post you’ve been thinking about. Maybe you just have an image, a feeling, a character? Personally, I have a number of different ways for exploring these ideas in my journal. At this stage, I like to write something down. Something fast, furious and messy. Spend 10 minutes or less.
I bet you could do this without writing too. The point is to gather the threads of an idea and to store them away in the back of your mind. Then go do something else. Flee the scene.
Step two: Engage in some mindful, creative play.
What the heck is that? Almost anything you want. I know writers who swear by meditating before they pen their poetry. I personally love to get out and wander the countryside. Or bake. Or doodle or draw something. Anything that keeps my body busy but lets my mind wander.
Sometimes as I wander, I get completely lost in a field of wheat and poppies and forget everything else.
Once in a while, I bring my mind back to the topic at hand: imagery for my poem, the logical steps to my blog post.
Step three: Snag it on the page.
If I’m baking or doodling, I’ve learned to keep my notebook nearby to jot down ideas. You can keep this in outline form. Something bare bones. It could be a mindmap. On my last romp through the fields I came home and wrote down what was pretty close to the final version of my latest poem. (It doesn’t always happen like this, that’s ok too).
Step four: Make your writing time count.
Take the steps I’ve just mentioned and when you finally have that uninterrupted hour…or 30 minutes, you’ll know what to say. Do it enough and you’ll start to trust yourself to make the right creative leaps and connections in the time you have.
By the way…
I’ve had people tell me they feel guilty writing something fast and so quickly.
But it’s only the writing that’s fast. This idea has been cooking now for quite some time. Maybe you’ve even slept on it.
What ways have you found to gather your words away from your desk?
I’d love to hear all about it. After all, we read and write alone, but we do it to connect with others.
PS: if you’d like to try your hand at some creative journaling exercises, try this short, sweet and free email course.