Friday, January 18, 2008

Rituals

The other night at our meeting, our guest speaker, Patrick Glancy, talked about ways to be more productive. One of the things he mentioned was the steps we each take to get into our "creative" mind - that place where we can sit and create, push aside the doubt demons and worries and just write. He gave each person who was at the meeting a 9 minute CD to help us get into that creative space so we can block everything else out and get down to work. I haven't listened to mine yet, but I plan to. Soon. (Maybe today.) Those of you who did listen to yours, what do you think? Did it help you get to a creative place?

I've been thinking about this a lot this week - this idea of the rituals or steps we each take to shut down our analytical mind and get into our creative one. I would imagine for anyone who has little kids running around the house, this is a hard thing to do, which explains why I don't get a lot of writing done during the day and do most of it at night. I find it very hard to get to that creative place when I'm constantly distracted or interrupted or just plain thinking about the ten-thousand other things I have to do today (like call the Y and find out when DS#1's bball game is tomorrow, or drive to Jefferson to take care of chapter bank stuff, or feed the kids and take the youngest to kindergarten and run to the grocery store because we're out of milk and figure out how the heck the youngest is going to get his nap in and intercept fighting and screaming and jumping on my new bed...) When asked, one of our guests the other night said she does something until it doesn't work anymore, then she tries something else, and that's how she avoids writer's block. I suppose we each do that in different ways, but I'm curious what your ritual is right now? Does it change? Is it primarily the same? Do you tweak it when you're under pressure or feeling stressed or when the words just aren't flowing?

I hate to admit it out loud, but my ritual is like this:

8pm - Put the kids to bed
8:30 - Flop on the couch and lay there for 20 minutes while I try to think about nothing.
8:50 - Pick up the computer, open my wip and stare at the screen.
9:00 - Open spider solitaire and play until I win (I'm compulsive)
Whenever that happens - start working on the wip.

Yeah, not so good, eh? But it works for me. For some reason I need a bit of down time between when the kids to go to bed and when I start working to get that analytical mind turned off and the creative one in gear. And for some reason mindless games of solitaire seem to do that for me. Now. In a week, that might not be the case. I also use that hour to talk to the DH, half-listen to the TV, sometimes IM with friends and just veg. Has it made me productive? I don't know. I'm editing now, so it's hard to judge productivity at this stage except to say that I'm making progress. And I wrote 2K new words the other night (no idea if I'll keep them or toss them - we'll see when I get the first round of these new edits out of the way), so yeah, I consider that progress.

What about you? Are you able to move from one activity - like your day job or your kids or what have you - to writing without any problem or do you have a transitional phase you go through to get into that creative mind? And once you're there, can you go back and forth or once you come out of that creativity place (like to answer the phone) do you have trouble getting back to it?

11 comments:

Lori Barber said...

Great Blog Eli. I listened to the CD yesterday. I plopped myself down in a chair with ottoman (on wheels) and tried to let everything go and get into the creative writing zone. Only thing is my mind kept wondering at times about things I needed to do, and the ottoman began to roll gently away from the chair until my bum was nearly dragging on the floor. Well that sort of halted all mind clearing as I wiggled myself back into position. With this said my first experience with the CD was not fruitful, but now I know what to expect, and which chair to avoid, I'm eager to try it again, especially when I'm stuck in that writers block. I will say I did feel relaxed award.

I too cabbaged onto the good suggestion by one of our guests to stay with a pattern until it doesn't work for you anymore and then find a new pattern. That made sense and so simple too.

I've also read it's good to do things in a different order sometimes to break boring routines. Also do something new during your day. It may be a very small thing, like switching places with two things on a dresser, but the impact seeing it from this different perspective may bring a smile.

My writing routine usually starts by reading and answering emails which can take a lot of time. Then I get into my writing. I will say, when I did the NaNoWriMO I wrote first and looked at my emails at the end of the day instead. I also made myself keep moving forward with my writing. It was a challenge but I knew I wound never finish if I started going back to do adds and changes. I did however jot down reminder notes.

I think it a good idea to spice things up and change the order and style you normally write in. Those different perspectives are a welcoming change and a nice chance to slip out of patterns working into a uncomfortable fit for you.

Lori

Alice Sharpe said...

This is one of the those topics that hit me where I live. When I first started writing, I could write through anything and mostly in the a.m. Kids, not tiny ones like yours, Eli, older. Phones, doorbells, stopping to change a load a wash -- you name it, nothing phased me. I needed very little motivation and prodding and ritual. Ah, the glory days, gone now, nothing but a memory, a wisp of forgotten lore....

Now I need hours of something I don't even know what it is. Email, blog, computer games, fidgeting -- I can drag it on forever. Sometimes the most productive time of the day is between 4 and 5 p.m. which means I've "wasted" hours. I know another writer who has written more books than me and is on the same tight deadlines, and she can do this, too. We laugh about it and then wonder-- what the hell happened?

I doubt a tape would work, but who knows. Getting the rational mind to turn off is the goal, I guess, and a few games of Spider Solitaire seems as effective as a tape. I used to use that game, too, and perhaps I need to go back with it. I'm intrigued by what Lori said about writing first, everything else on the computer second. I think that's a good idea.

And if you can learn a good ritual, the flip side is you can also learn a bad one. I think that is what I have allowed to develop -- a long, frustrating interval between sitting down and becoming truly productive. I think I have taught myself I need to do all those other things first. Perhaps it's time to teach myself to set a timer, give myself an hour to do whatever I want and then, go to work.

This is all made harder by the fact that eventually, I do get things done, I do meet deadlines, I do accomplish the things I have to accomplish. It just doesn't seem like it should be such a royal pain in the neck.

I don't know what the answer is. I wish I had heard the speaker as I am not sure what this problem has to do with writer's block. Explain that to me, please.

Paty Jager said...

Great topic, Eli!

As I've said many times, sorry all, I check e-mails, blog if it's my blog day and check blogs, then I feed animals (this week boys) and then sit down and write if I don't have to run to town. I can get a lot accomplished with this routine.

Here in AK thought I've been trying to write when they are napping or in the evening when their Dad gets home and I'm off duty. Then I go in the bedroom and write until I'm tired then go to sleep. Which is a change of routine for me and is working except I haven't read last night's stuff and I was really tired, so it could just be drivel! LOL

I like routine, but what works the best for me is knowing ahead of time, I want to accomplish this much today or this week or this month. So goal setting tends to work just as well for me as a routine.

And people bugging me for more chapters! ;)

It will be interesting to see what works for each person.

And Alice, I can totally relate to the messing around all day and finally in the last hour or so getting productive. When the kids were home and I'd get a day that I could write most of it, that seemed to be what I did. I think I was so used to having only an hour or two to write that I splurged the whole day and finally got to business toward the end.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

LOL, Lori about your rolling chair. I can just see that happening to you.

Patrick said it might take several times before the CD relaxes you enough to get into the creative mind. Like everything else, it's a habit you develop. I'll be interested to hear if it works for you after you listen to it a few times. The youngest is laying down, so after I finish responding here on the blog I'm going to try to listen to it.

I like your idea about writing before checking emails. I've really cut back on my online blog/loop browsing, so that doesn't suck up my time anymore, but it's easy to spend a long time doing emails - especially now that I seem to be dealing with a lot of chapter emails that need answers asap. That's something I definitely need to figure out with regard to my writing time.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Alice, I'm the same way. And in fact, that was my original topic for this blog before I started writing it and changed my focus - how easy it is to waste time. When I was on the treadmill this morning at the gym I was talking to a woman who's youngest just went to school full time this year (first grade) and I was asking her if she's acclimated and if she's able to get a lot done. She said the first few months she was very productive, but lately, she's amazed when she looks at the clock and it's already 2:30 and she hasn't gotten anything done. I'm the same way with my writing - I can tinker all day and never accomplish anything, then get crazy at 9pm and write solid for two hours and get 2K words in. I think that's sort of what Patrick was getting at with his self-hypnosis CD though - teaching yourself to BE more productive when you want rather than putting it off.

And as for his talk, he was giving suggestions not only for dealing with writer's block but for being more productive, staying focused, etc. One of the things he emphasized was that when we're stuck in writer's block a lot of times it's simply that something's keeping us from getting into that creative mind and by changing your ritual or routine and teaching yourself to get there (ie, the self-hypnosis stuff) you can sometimes get past the block.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

That's a good point, Paty, having your daily goal in mind. When I'm on the 1000-word daily goal thing it definitely helps keep me focused on what I need to do that day, but I still find myself pushing it back and doing it all in, say, an hour rather than several hours that I might have available (which is rarely ever!).

I'm glad you're still able to be somewhat productive up there in AK!

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli, I think that 1,000 word a day thing worked pretty good for me, too. How do we set that up where we have a daily check in or does anyone else want to do it? I think the goal kept me focused and as I tend to be a bit on the competitive side at times, I didn't want to fall behind while Paty wrote 5 million words.

How do we do this, or do we?

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Alice, I'd say at the end of the day (after that day's blogger has blogged and people have had a chance to comment), go ahead and post a challenge update. Does anyone have a problem with this?

Danita Cahill said...

When I'm in the throes of a book, I write in the morning. I can edit at night, but not much true creativity happens for me at the end of the day.

So, my schedule would look like this:
7 am -- get up and write for an hour before the youngest is up.
8 am -- youngest is up. Feed him breakfast, write while he eats.
8:20 clean him up, play with him, turn on OPB and write somemore.
8:20-11:00 am -- zillions of interruptions. Try to write through them.
11:00 am -- put youngest down for a nap. Hope he sleeps. If he does, write until he wakes and then go about the day. Writing is over.

I'm still in revision mode, so I do that whenever I can steal some moments. When it comes time to seriously start a new book, I'll have to change my schedule. Gone now are the late morning naps. Now the youngest doesn't sleep until 2 or 3 in the afternoon.

So sorry I had to miss the meeting too. Sounds like it was great. New meeting place also sounds like a hit.

Karen Duvall said...

I don't have any rituals. I have some habits, but I wouldn't call them rituals, especially when it comes to writing. I write when I can, usually in the afternoon. I'm worthless at night and can't create anything new, but I can edit like there's no tomorrow. 8^)

Paty Jager said...

Alice can throw up an update whenever she wants either here or on the loop. I'm waiting- had a fair week even with wathcing the two hooligans.