The random musings of Kate Grace
This one’s for all the writers out there specifically, but the core of the issue applies to everyone with something they want to do, have been talking about doing or can’t seem to get themselves to do.
I love exercising, but absolutely hate getting up to do it. The moments leading up to when I actually start running, pushing the bike pedals or picking up the weights I feel as if there’s an army of little couch potato gnomes pulling back on my ankles and wrists. Lacing up my running shoes is a painstakingly difficult process as those damn gnomes whisper every possible excuse in my ear and pry back my fingertips. Huffing and puffing, I somehow manage to get the shoes on and get out the door.
Within minutes something amazing happens… I feel incredible! And that feeling only grows as I run, bike, lift and sweat. After I’m finished, I feel invincible and I order myself to remember this feeling, this moment, tomorrow when the gnomes waddle off their invisible couch and return to my shoe laces and attempts at sabotage.
But it never gets easier. The gnomes always arrive, right on time. The only reason I am now able to stick to an exercise routine is because of Maddie, my 10-month-old Lab pup that will undoubtedly chew an escape route through the wall during the day if I don’t get my toosh up and run her before I go to work. When the gnomes come for me in the morning, so does Maddie and she wins in the end.
So what does this have to do with writing and my creative process? These same gnomes come with me when I sit down at the computer to write. But they bring their friends who specialize in self-doubt and fear added to the mix of procrastination. No matter how amazing I feel once I get writing and how inspired I am walking away from a great writing session, it is so difficult for that memory to win in the moment.
That’s where the “process” from creative process comes in. It’s not just about how you’re inspired, how ideas zip into your mind or what have you. It’s about discipline and knowing when to crack the whip or go find someone who can and will (with some muscle behind it) when you won’t. Just as I have Maddie to get me up, into my running shoes and out on the road at 7am, I now have a project manager to keep me on track with my writing and the Burden of the Soul series.
It’s been difficult getting the next few books out, as I’ve written about before. There’s more than enough distractions each week to keep me from sitting down to the lap top, and even when I do the ideas don’t flow, so I throw the towel in immediately. That’s why I’ve enlisted the help of a good friend and mega-ball buster to be my project manager – Katie Bartlett.
She’ll be entrusted with the word count. 10K to 15K per week, due Monday morning with no excuses. She’s already added the first deadline to my calendar as seen in the photo. So now I’ve got the help with discipline, now how to handle the inspiration.
Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) gives insightful lectures on the idea of inspiration. If you haven’t seen her TedX talk, I urge you to go watch it! It was her talks and the process of working my way through The Artist’s Way series that led me to where I am now and the process (discipline) I use. Inspiration is outside of myself, as I believe it to be. This helps because it takes the pressure off of me and gets me out of my head.
My job as a writer has two parts when it comes down to it. FIRST: Show up and give the time to writing, nothing else. SECOND: Give that time fully… come with a clear head and give your full attention to the whispers that will start stirring as you begin to type.
I got an email the other day from a reader who is also a writer. She told me how she was having trouble writing and then went to bed one night and suddenly the ideas started pouring out so she got up and wrote until 3am. How often does that happen? I always find the ideas only come when my mind is quiet, when my body relaxes and when the worries or stresses of the day begin to slip away. I can’t tell you how many times the perfect dialogue or scene has come to me while in the shower.
So now I know, and that’s how I prepare for my writing time. I take a walk, listening to music that reminds me of my characters (I keep designated playlists for characters). I lay down for a bit, or take some time to journal about my day to get all the crap out of my head before I give it over to my characters. If I sit down to write and my characters are dealing with the exact same things I am that day, I go journal some more and then come back.
That’s my process, my discipline. We talk about creative process as if it’s this flowery, philosophical state of mind. We wax poetic when really we should be sitting our butts down in front of a computer and writing. The process is the discipline, and no matter if it’s writing, painting, drawing, exercising, or some other transformational process, the discipline isn’t optional. I accept that it’ll be hard to sit down and do it, though it’ll feel amazing afterwards. And in times like these when the gnomes seem to have super-human strength to keep me from writing, I fight back by not only allotting time to write but also to prepare for writing.
And then I call in the big guns. Watch out, gnomes. Katie Bartlett is the new sheriff in town.