(OR An Accidental Part 2 to Remind Your Brain Who’s Boss)
Having examined how the creative process works inside of the brain (at least briefly and from the standpoint of a severe laywoman), it’s time to figure out how better to train the creative mind to be more productive. As someone who writes as a profession, I really should be writing every day.
I’m not. Most days, sure. If I had my ‘druthers, I’d love to sit and write fairly consistently for 4-6 hours a day, every day. I don’t have that kind of time most days or, if we are being honest, maybe I don’t make that time. Between dealing with a chronic illness and pain, housework, and caring for our three parrots, I don’t have much quiet and uninterrupted down time to just focus on work.
If you are a writer who sits and works 6, 7, 8 hours a day most every day, I salute you. That’s fantastic. If you’re more like me, you might also be wondering how to improve those writing habits. And that’s what they are, aren’t they? Habits. Without an office job with regular hours and pay, it’s up to the individual to just plant his or her butt in a chair and write. With no absolute promise of pay more often than not, consistently working on a writing project can seem daunting.
Being creative is easy. Being consistent is what’s difficult.
I used to work in kitchens. I’m actually trained as a pastry chef! And if there is one line of work that requires consistency above all else (don’t let Food Network fool you with its pretty, well-lit home kitchens because those are a LIE), it’s the world of the restaurant kitchen. That was a low-paying job that required showing up 6 days a week for 10 or more hours of intense physical labor each day and you didn’t have room to mess around with being creative in the grind of daily work.
I developed a mantra for myself when I was having a tough time working through pain or fatigue or frustration and I think it works here, too. If the first part of this article duo was about the physical/chemical aspect of the creative brain, then this part is about the more physical part of writing consistently.
Show up. Shut up. Put up.
It looks simple, doesn’t it? It isn’t always or we would all do it merrily and constantly. Life gets in the way – trust me, I know – but forming habits that put life on pause to be productive is the key.
No, really. That’s it. His is probably the easiest step of all. My illness has kept me from holding down a 9-5 but I can write and work from home! Whatever Show Up means to you, it’s time to do it. No excuses. Get there.
This is where it gets hard. In the kitchen, this was very literal – no back talk, no excuses, just keep your head down and work. In this case, the question is more about avoiding distraction. Close Facebook and twitter and tumblr and all of that good stuff and just work. Reward yourself every 30 or 45 minutes if you need to (I know I do) with some silly browsing, a snack, or just dancing around your kitchen like an idiot for a few minutes. Whatever works. But when it comes to work, it’s time to Shut Up.
Do the work. Do it. Make goals, work toward them, and (this is the most important bit) finish things. Publishers don’t want to accept 2/3 of your masterpiece brat American novel so you had better actually complete that manuscript. Start small if you need to. Write twitter posts on a professional account. Make blog posts (hint hint!). Write flash fiction or short stories or personal essays or creative non-fiction. Decide on something to do and dot it.
Show up. Shut up. Put up. Now lets see what you can do, Internet!