The blank page is staring you.. challenging you to come up with something good. Something witty. Something to make the fancy book publishers and NY Times rave! But right now you’d rather check your e-mail, check FaceBook or update your iTunes…. anything but write. I know because the blank page often stares at me down and dares me to write magnificent prose. Or even mediocre prose. It’s not picky. I want to loose myself in the blank page and spin a fascinating yarn but my e-mail account teases me from the sidelines challenging me to stop what I’m doing and check my blog or Facebook page. The voices mock me to click… just this once. Like a drug addict. I don’t have a problem.
Like most writers I am in possession of the nagging voice that tells me I should be writing when I have some down time. My job tends to be quiet in the evening which gives me lots of time to crank out the next American Novel. But do I? No. My e-mail needs to be checked and so does that fashion website. Pretty soon work is almost over and I have only written a few witty e-mails and responses to posts on FaceBook.
My e-mail accounts nor FaceBook are going to help me write better and I’ve been searching for ways to do many things better including write. I determined I needed something to put me in the mood to write… something to trigger my creative brain and block out the extra noise.
The solution came to me in the form of a 6-week online creativity workshop I’ve been taking from Cynthia Briggs. Each week Cyndi presents us with an idea or concept to get us out of our creative ruts and make plans and set goals. This week she wrote about setting our intentions and using rituals to help us create change. By doing this Cyndi says we can focus what’s really important instead of the dreaded To Do List. Incorporating some form of ritual into our intentions helps to create focus.
I thought about how I already apply this to my every day life and how I can apply it to my creative endeavors. I make a ritual of walking by the Portland waterfront and watching the sun rise and geese and ducks swim as I walk to work in the morning. It takes the edge off the crankiness of the morning and I arrive at work feeling at peace with the world. I do the same thing when I meditate. No, I don’t walk by the Portland waterfront, but I do light incense and put on music before I sit down to calm my brain and focus on my intention. It helps put me in “meditation mode” better than just sitting down on the floor and looking at lit candles.
Using the same meditation concepts and triggers, I came with a few ideas to help shut off the part of my brain that gets distracted by the latest shiny object:
Music: When threw my hat into the NaNo ring (epic fail!) and tried to write the next great American novel in a month, I used background music to keep me on task. The soft soothing sounds of Enya or the deep techno beats of tribal house music kept the anxious part of my brain busy and allowed me to stay in Writer Mode as I cranked out my quota for the day.
Automatic Writing: I learned how to do this while I was doing my internship and it really works. Just sit down and write whatever is on your mind. Here’s an example:
I’m tired, I don’t want to write. I have no ideas. What should I make for dinner? Why does the cat have to constantly come in and out of the house? My legs are dry and need lotion. This room is a mess.
This exercise removes the garbage from my head and gives me a clearer mind with which to write and not focus on why the neighbor’s dog is barking. It allows me to work through any plot points or story problems without my inner editor telling me it is wrong.
Clean: I am a Virgo and I like things tidy. If it’s not nailed down, it gets recycled. Just ask my husband whose important papers I threw away because he left them on the kitchen table. If the room is a mess, I focus on the mess. A good trigger for me is to tidy up the room before I write so my brain can focus on the task at hand and be refreshed when I sit down to write. No dusting in mid-paragraph for me!
Stay inspired: They say writing and the life of a writer is lonely. And it can be, but I do my best when I’m around creative people. We can bounce ideas off each other set ground rules for writing and make sure everyone stays on task. I get a lot more done when I can write around creative people than when I’m by myself and have the urge to check my e-mail every ten seconds.
There are so many other ideas and concepts out there to help you create your own writing ritual. Use your favorite pen or favorite journal. Use a special room or go to the library or your favorite pub (that doesn’t have Internet) and write. I like writing away from the house because there are too many distractions at home.
I’m interested in learning how YOU have developed your own intentions and rituals for the creative and even mundane tasks in your life. Drop me a line at Anna@Anna-Alexander.org and let me know! I’ll report back on my findings so we can all share ideas.