I recently watched a video of John Cleese’s lecture on the five requirements for creativity. If you haven’t seen it before, I highly recommend it. It’s both insightful and hilarious (it is John Cleese, after all) and well worth the 30 minutes or so of your time. One of the requirements Cleese mentions is the necessity of getting your brain into what he terms ‘open mode’ or the mode of thinking in which you can be creative. That resonated with me particularly, since if there’s one area of writing I struggle with, I would say that it’s getting into– and staying in– open mode.
Hopefully I’m not alone in saying this, but even though writing is my dream job and I truly couldn’t love it more– even though I’ve written and published 10 books at this point– even still, when I sit down at my keyboard, I’m usually struck by an overwhelming urge to avoid writing. Why? I’m not even sure. Fear, maybe– fear that the magic isn’t going to happen and everything I’m going to write will be atrociously stupid? (I also hope I’m not alone in saying that basically every single book I write, I reach a point where I tell my husband/writing partner/mother, “So, isn’t it interesting that I’m writing the worst book in the history of the world?” )
At any rate, pushing through that fear, that desire to do anything on the face of the earth except work on my beloved story is probably my biggest challenge. Of course I do it, every single day, because I’m also pretty much compulsive about achieving my daily word count goals. But it’s still hard. At any rate, though, these last couple of months I’ve been forced by necessity to really pay attention to how quickly and thoroughly I can get my brain into open mode and start being creative. I have a 2 mos. old baby– as well as two older kids– home with me full-time, which means that any time I do manage to get into open mode, I’m likely to get snapped out of it fairly quickly by some small person needing me. If I get 20 minutes to write, I need to write for at least 19 of them, not fritter away 10 checking e-mail and trying to convince myself to just open the darn Scrivener file and start typing. It’s been good, actually, in that I’ve developed some strategies that seem to help. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Read. Somehow, nothing helps me get into open mode better than reading. The books I read typically have nothing at all to do with the novel I’m writing– most aren’t even in the same genre– but even so, somehow reading other authors’ stories always inspires me to dig deeper into my own. I try to start every day with at least 20 minutes or so of reading (even though I’m typically also doing something else, like exercising/feeding the baby/etc. at the same time).
2. Get off the internet. No, really. Just turn it off. I used to think I didn’t have a problem with this. I was writing every day, achieving somewhere between 1500 and 2000 words daily. What did it matter if I paused now and again to check e-mail or whatever? It makes a huge difference for me, though. I recently got a new laptop and my husband switched me over to using Linux as an operating system. At first, I didn’t know how to check e-mail or go online with it just because my husband hadn’t yet given me the full tutorial. After a couple of days, I decided that I didn’t want to know. All I know how to do on my laptop is write a novel. With the result that when I sit down with it, that’s all I do. It’s awesome. (I know there are also many programs out there that will keep you offline for a set amount of time; I just decided I didn’t even want the temptation).
3. Get out of the house. This isn’t always terribly easy/possible with a 2 mos. old, but often if I’m taking my girls to swim class or dance class, I’ll bring my laptop along and sit in the car with the (sleeping) baby while I wait for them. It’s amazing how much I can get done when I’m stuck in the car without any distractions or other available tasks to be accomplished.
So those are my favorite ways to help with achieving open mode. What are yours? What helps you feel most creative?