You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.
― Saul Bellow, Writer
I think it’s safe to say that writers are, in general, picky when it comes to our writing conditions.
I’m no exception. Seriously, change out my keyboard and see how well that goes over. I will throw down for my ergonomic buddy.
Noise, writing instruments, paper types, journals, monitor resolutions, screen sizes — we’re either looking for an excuse not to write or looking for the magical combination to unlock our muse.
Now, I’ve already covered that writing conditions won’t always be perfect and that sometimes we have to suck it up.
Then, a few days ago, I wound up on the wrong side of a frozen pizza. Without oversharing, I’ll only say that due to events outside of my control, I was up and awake until 4:00 a.m. (Yes, I really am going somewhere with this.)
Funny thoughts tend to run through my head while I’m sick.
Why isn’t there anything on TV? If I have to go through this, I should at least be able to watch something decent. Jeez, what am I supposed to do in between (being sick)? This is so boring.
So on a whim, I picked up some spare paper and started writing random phrases. Kinda like how artists doodle nonsensical doohickeys, I wrote nonsensical jibber jabber.
To jolt the muse into coming into life is akin to waking a tiger by pulling its whiskers. You’ll get a reaction, but you won’t like the results.
Total nonsense that’s not going anywhere, but it gave me something to do that lowered my risk of succumbing to a 3:00 a.m. infomercial. No room for a bowflex. No room a bowflex. No room for a bowflex…
Yesterday, when I was finally back to my usual self, I looked back through what I’d written. And it occurred to me…What if I try to embrace uncomfortable writing conditions? Instead of eliminating or ignoring them? Just once in a while.
What impact would it have on my writing skills and general productivity?
I once read an article in the September 2012 printed issue of Writer’s Digest titled “7 Steps to Successful Juggling” by Pamela Redmond Satran. It’s an older article, but one phrase that’s stuck with me over the years was her epiphany about “writing as bullets fly.” Note: The article itself isn’t online and I can’t remember most of it, but the Writer’s Digest post Making Your Writing Time Matter by Jessica Strawser has an excerpt of the piece to which I’m referring.
Basically, “writing as bullets fly” boils down to writing no matter what’s going on around you. Kids, television, spouses, people talking to you. Write anyway.
Not something I’m necessarily good at. Just ask my fiancé, who’s had his head bitten off countless times for interrupting me while I’m trying to work. (In my defense, he had plenty of forewarning.) So, throughout the coming weeks, I’m going to seek out and create imperfect writing conditions. And I’ll report the results, both good and not so great.
Starting with my biggest source of discomfort: noise.
What about you? What causes you the most discomfort when you’re trying to write and what do you usually do about it? Share in the comments.
6 thoughts on “Embracing imperfect writing conditions”
“To jolt the muse into coming into life is akin to waking a tiger by pulling its whiskers. You’ll get a reaction, but you won’t like the results.”
Erica, may I please borrow this phrase? I’ll happily quote you. It’s so true!
Of course! Thanks for the attribution (and the compliment). 🙂
Ha! This is so funny because we are renovating and there is a carpenter (literally) outside my window hammering. I’m trying to make cold calls on his breaks 🙂
Noise hasn’t ever really bothered me too much. My problem is usually the 2 or 3 or 4pm slump. My brain just gets fuzzy around that time.
Ha! Yup, construction is one of my biggest pet peeves, too. And it’s so hard to get mad at them because they really are just doing their job. We just need to figure out how to do ours while they’re at it. 🙂
I think everything bothers me. Nowadays though, I’m finding it hard to turn off the Internet to concentrate and am considering getting an app that will shut me down and force me to reboot if I don’t write.
This will be an interesting experiment, Erica. Looking forward to hearing your results.
The Internet is one of the biggest distractions, I think, that anyone faces. Including me. If you come across a good app, let us know. And good luck!