Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mix It Up

My blog has probably made it clear that I am a schedule-oriented person.  I like to work out a routine and then stick to it for the next ten years of my life.  (Okay, maybe not quite that long, but still, for a long time.)

The only problem with that tendency, as other schedulers out there probably know, is that boredom creeps in.  You go along, doing almost the exact same thing every week and then voila! suddenly you never want to do it again in your life. 

Under these is a perfect place to work!
There are about three weeks until I start teaching again, and I’ve come to that bored stage with my summer routine.  This past Monday I finished my big editing project.  Then I made a simple plan of editing one chapter of my small project per day until I finished the four remaining chapters.  You’d think that I could get through such a thing easily enough, especially since it only takes an hour or so to polish up a 3 page chapter, but boredom has snuck in and sabotaged my efforts. 

However, all is not lost.  I was beginning to envision putting off the editing for another two weeks until the rush of school preparations is over, but then a friend of mine called me up.  He's also a teacher (though at a University), and also afflicted with end of the summer blues.  We both realized that if we wanted to surmount ennui and get anything done, we needed a change of venue. 

So we headed forth to a restaurant with wi-fi service, ordered drinks and appetizers, and settled in for a couple of hours. 

Well, it turns out that when someone busy is sitting across the table from you, working away, you think to yourself, ‘Oh, I should really get something done, too!’  And you plunge into your project, in spite of any nagging boredom, and suddenly it starts moving ahead.  If you’d stayed home, doing what you usually do, perhaps you’d have procrastinated endlessly, but the solidarity of another person working with you – even if on a totally different project – inspires real industry. 

Mrs. L. once took me to write in a garden with magnolias!
The pleasure of having like-minded friends is that they understand your work quandaries. Vasnefy, Mrs. L. – both these friends also pursue various artistic endeavors, and both have taught in the past or are teaching now.  I can rely on them all to bolster me in my writing, even when I’m bored or depressed, and to suggest ways to change my schedule so that I can surprise myself into a writing frame of mind. 

We all go through creative dry spells – it’s part of the game of being a writer or an artist – but sometimes it’s possible to sidestep the dryness, or trick the writer’s block, by doing something out of the ordinary.  I remember reading an essay by Eudora Welty once, and she said that a writer has to be able to write anytime, anywhere.  I try to emulate her advice, but I do think she must have been a super-hero if she stuck to it perfectly herself.  Sometimes the usual places no longer stimulate the mind.

At times like this, I highly recommend the method I employed yesterday.  I’ve used it in the past with Mrs. L., too.  Seek out a fun new place: a park, a restaurant, a café, even just someone else’s living-room instead of your own.  You may not suddenly write genius prose or be inspired with the secrets of the universe, but I think it’s likely you’ll have a little jumpstart to help overcome your block. 

Cocktails are most inspiring when finished!
Working in a new environment, I did after all edit a chapter of House of Mirrors.  Today was busy, so I’ve not managed to finish another, but after that break-through, I feel more inspired to work even at home or the library – my two usual writing spots.  That’s why I’m optimistic that tomorrow when I open my editing files, I’ll find my reluctance has evaporated and I can accomplish what I set out to do.

Sometimes we need a refresher, don’t you think?  Schedules are all well and good, but they require an injection of spontaneity if they're not going to become crushing and tiring.   So call a friend who also writes or has projects to accomplish.  Head to a new place and work in companionable silence.  You'll be surprised how much can get done.

Oh, and I can tell you that if you go somewhere that serves cocktails – suddenly the whole endeavor becomes so much more fun!


  1. I totally agree that we need to mix it up on occasion to keep the creativity flowing. Great post.

    1. Thank you for the comment! I'm glad you agree. It's one of those self-evident facts which nonetheless we can manage to forget if we're not careful.

  2. Thanks for your visit over at my place. I'm up way to early for a Saturday morning - and your words were friendly, supportive and to use the well worn Californian praise "Totally" spot on. I think I'll check out the morning paper and relish the day that I have all to myself. I've had grandmotherly duties most of the week and a toddler can be tiring. ...I'm free...
    Later I'll work on a poem with the new Wordle list #70 which will be up to the public tomorrow here: Because for me creative writing is still very much a joy.
    Nice post here. I enjoy your point of views. A little spice, always nice...(hopefully this is a tip you haven't heard of...that aha spice in some pasta's fresh ground nutmeg!).

    1. Thank you for the comment. Life always needs some spice, it's so true! And pasta sauce, too, apparently. I'll have to try the trick you suggest sometime soon.