Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Showing Up is Not Enough

Sharon Wildwind

Writing is great right now. I’m close to finishing the first draft of the next book. I’m in a great critique group. Words and ideas flow freely every morning.

The world being what it is, a time will come when both words and ideas temporarily stop flowing. I’m a great believer in the showing up is half the battle school of thought.  Twenty minutes of seat in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, either write or do nothing frequently kicks loose the word flow.

Sometimes showing up isn’t enough. We stop writing not because we’ve run out of words or ideas, but because we become toxic when we have too many words, ideas, and images. What we need is a proper detoxification. Here are some ways to rest and detoxify the word parts of our brain.

Stop reading. If you can, stop reading everything, except traffic signs, for one week. Julia Cameron recommends this in a couple of her books. I thought she was crazy, until I tried it, and then I realized she was smart.

Not everyone has the luxury of being able to take a complete reading break. If you’re in the position that you must read for work, do the minimum amount you can, and stop reading after you leave work.

Stop marketing. Yes, marketing is a part of life for writers, but not doing it for seven days is not going to bring the world crashing down around your ears. If a seven-day stop is out of your reach, try it for at least three days.

Turn off the television. I used to get very strange looks when I told people I didn’t have a television. The trend seems to be spreading. In the past month, I’ve met three people who also don’t have televisions. All seem to be doing well. Okay, so most of us, me including, are substituting viewing on computer, so let’s make this one a little more general: turn off whatever device you use to get what once was a television fix.

Sleep in an extra hour once a week. The world is organized into 24-hour cycles; our bodies are organized into 25-hour cycles. Eventually the difference builds up and we get cranky. Sleeping in an extra hour once a week appears to do something to close the gap between the cycles.

Do I need to mention start exercising or change your exercise routine, reduce the amount of caffeinated drinks, and drink more water. I thought not. We’ve all got those messages, right?

Here’s another water-related suggestion. Put your body in water more. In every group of writers where I’ve asked the question “What works when you’re having trouble writing?” the answers have always included taking a long bath, taking a shower, and washing dishes.

Play with colors and sounds. If you favor an art or craft, do it—paint a picture, make a quilt, string beads, and on. Do it without following a pattern. Dip your hand into your paint box, fabric scrap bag, or bead bin, pull out a handful of supplies, and start playing.

If you’re craft challenged, a coloring book and crayons or colored pencils works fine. I prefer the ones with geometric patterns rather than definite shapes. The same is true with sounds. Instrumental music works better (for me, and maybe for you) than vocals, unless the singing is in a language that I don’t understand.

Pay attention to dreams, both the sleeping and waking kind. See if you can find any recurring patterns or symbols in your night dreams.

Spend time thinking way back to when your desire to be a writer began. What was your writing dream? I’m going out on a limb here, but I suspect it didn’t including marketing, social media, deadlines, editing, or running the publishing marathon. As the late Waylon Jennings sang, maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.

Quote for the week
Focus more on your desire than on your doubt, and the dream will take care of itself. You may be surprised at how easily this happens. Your doubts are not as powerful as your desires, unless you make them so. 
~ Marcia Wieder, Founder and CEO of Dream University


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

You left out the best kind of body in water experience, Sharon--swimming!

Anonymous said...

Oh, yeah, it's summer. With the rain and cool temperatures — it's clouding up right now — I forgot that. Guess I'd better check out the pool hours.

Mary Jane Maffini said...

I loved this post, Sharon - even after 13 1/2 books, I still need to heed this advice.

After reading Loved Honor More, I am really waiting for your next project. Feel no presure though, as you soak in the tub.


Anonymous said...

Mary Jane, I don't think we ever stop needing encouragement to keep going.

Thanks for the lovely comment. Okay, I'll finish Carrying the Blood (my next one - new characters) without any pressure.