Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Freeing Your Creativity

I admit it, I'm one of those guys. You know, the ones who always have some project going on. They build a deck on their house, restore an old car, record a music CD, and write a book all at once. A Jack-of-all-trades and master of none, some might say. Constantly moving, always noisy, sometimes downright irritating. Personally, I blame ADD.

I've mentioned before that ADD or ADHD runs in my family. Some of my family members have been officially diagnosed. I have not, but I see enough of their behaviors echoed in my own to know that I have -at least- a touch of it. I'm fine with that. As far as I can tell, this is more of a genetic personality trait than some sort of tragic medical diagnosis, and short of a few irritated neighbors this hasn't ever brought negative consequences. On the contrary, my inability to sit still spurs me on to new challenges constantly.

Ok, I'm going to jump tracks for a second. I promise I'll bring it full circle.

I've always been fascinated by writer's block. I think most people are. Even people who aren't writers still have truckloads of great advice about what it is and how to deal with it. I personally don't really struggle with writer's block, or at least haven't yet. I never have a shortage of ideas. I have thousands of characters and story ideas in my head, and at least as many stashed around my house in old notebooks. For me, the difficulty isn't being able to write, it's choosing what to write. I don't want to spend months of my life working on a project that I won't end up publishing for one reason or another. So I spend a lot of time considering my ideas and planning before I ever get to the writing stage. I want to make sure the stories will be a fit for me, as well as for my readers.

When I do start writing I'm usually raring to go because I've already expended two weeks or more just thinking about my story, and taking notes. At the start of a novel, it's not unheard of for me to spend the first two weeks writing 5,000-7,500 words a day. That's a great pace, but it's also a burn-out pace. Eventually, I do feel my creative energy start to drain. I might have a problem figuring out how to write the next scene or chapter, and I start to flounder. That's where my ADD kicks in and saves the day.

See, I won't sit staring at a blank screen. I can't sit staring at a blank screen. Thirty seconds of that and I'm gone. I'll be off playing my guitar, building something, or planning to build something... that's how my mind works. Suddenly I'm out in the yard running a 2x4 through the table saw, or digging a hole to plant a new grapevine. For me, this kind of work is a sort of meditation. My mind starts to wander. I think about everything and anything except my novel. I think about the project I'm working on, the weather, the last project I forgot to finish or the next one I'd like to start... and wham, suddenly I stop in my tracks and realize I've just visualized a scene (or several) in the novel I thought I was stuck on.

So basically, those are my two "tricks" to keep writing:

  • The first is to think about my book for a while but force myself not to write it yet.
  • The second is to go work on some other creative project, something that turns my mind off or sends it in a new direction for a while. 
Either of these seem to have a way of letting my conscious mind turn the problem over to my subconscious. I believe Steven King has a similar process that he calls handing the work over to the guys in the "basement." (King's nonfiction memoir "On Writing" is a must-read. If you haven't, please do!) I've done this all my life, and for most of that time I didn't even realize what I was doing. It wasn't until I'd been writing a few years and hearing horror stories about writer's block that I finally examined my own routines.

Here's a good place to start: If you're hung up on a writing project and can't seem to get anywhere with it, give yourself a specific amount of time (one day, a week, maybe even two weeks) and tell yourself: "I'm not going to allow myself to write." After all, if there's one thing your subconscious likes, it's a challenge. And the truth is, you really are a writer because you want to be. Forcing yourself not to be creative is a great way to get those rebellious creative juices flowing.

No comments:

Post a Comment