Settle Down and Write!

Note:  This blog post is the result of an assignment in a creative writing class offered by Wesleyan University and taught by Amity Gaige.  The assignment was to write about a habitual ritual in the second person, the “you”.  The second person is designed to provide a more intimate relationship between the writer and the reader.  This was my submission.

To write every day, you need noise canceling headphones at the ready.  The distractions of the everyday humdrum sounds that you have ignored up to now will start pounding in your head until that is all you can do, hear the sounds—the kitchen faucet dripping, the ticking clock, the clothes dryer tossing fabric.  Don’t get up to stop these things. If you must, jot them down somewhere to use as descriptors for another story but do not stop writing!  Put on the headphones.  Noise canceling is the key.   These headphones can be used also if it is music that motivates you.

Speaking of which, be sure to understand what motivates you to write.  Or what soothes you so that you can write.  Do you need quiet?  Do you need music?  Do you need a particular room?  Do you need to make sure the house is clean or the laundry is done first?  If the latter, I recommend getting a house cleaner.

Take deep breaths before starting.  It’s OK that you are not good at meditating—take the breaths and tell yourself the breaths are calming you and putting you in the right frame of mind to write.  Do it.  Try seven breaths.

Breaths not doing it for you?  Walk around the block, or the neighborhood, or your local park.  Make this the kick off time for preparation for writing.

Separate the creative you from the editor you.  Write creatively without care for proper punctuation or grammar.  Leave that part to your editor mind when you re-read your writing.  Don’t worry about how to start a sentence.  Start in the middle of a sentence or a thought and write it and keep going.  Don’t switch hats—determine when you are using your creative mind and stick to it.  Then set a different time to be an editor and do that. You may have to switch between these minds several times to get your writing in shape. That is part of the process.

When you are befuddled or hit a wall, switch to a different scene—a different time of place.  If you need detail, determine what kind.  Do you need to close your eyes and put yourself in a different time and place?  Do it.  Do you need to take off the headphones to capture noise of your environment?  Do it, but focus on the sounds that you need, capture them, jot them down, and put the headphones back on. Still stuck?  Start writing anything for five to ten minutes—anything.  You can write, “I don’t know what to write, I am stuck here feeling stupid, the day is cloudy, I don’t know where to start, I am annoyed.”  You get the idea.  But you are writing.  Good.

Determine when you are the most productive.  Early morning?  Later in the day?  Set the time that you will be writing and get everything out of the way—such as eating breakfast—so that time can be adhered to.  Put that time in your calendar, just like any other appointment.

Despite your best efforts, there are unintended interruptions.  A headache that blinds you and sucks out your brain, the neighbor who has an emergency and needs you to watch over a child.  You live in the real world and it is this world that fuels you, so worldly interruptions are a part of your life. Rest your head or take care of the child, but each week build into your schedule a time that is your “make up” time—a time that serves as a buffer that allows you to write and not feel guilty for the time lost to the real world.

At the end of your writing appointment, smile. Pat yourself on the back.  You are a writer.

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