After many years of constant motion, I set out over the last year to make deliberate changes to my life. I stepped down, resigned, said no, cancelled activities and walked away. When all the excuses were gone, I was left facing the most formidable obstacle ever to being the writer I want to be – myself.
There’s a lot of talk about the corrosive effect of our distracted lives and it hasn’t been until I tried to sit still that it became truly apparent. I feel a little lost, a little uncertain about what I’m supposed to be doing. I have to look at the calendar to see what day it is and remind myself to shower. I have done every imaginable household task – my home has never been cleaner. I’ve spent countless hours doing internet research on any random question that has popped into my head. I have done, you see, everything but write.
I had a problem to solve and I’ve been working to come up with solutions. How do I create the space and time to write?
Where? Writers are presumed to be able to work anywhere. I have not found this to be the case. Sensory-wise, I can be pretty easily overwhelmed. My husband has told me for years that I need better “filters”. I told him that he needs a different wife. Defensiveness rules after being told for so many years that I’m too sensitive to sounds and smells. Maybe the world just needs to shut the hell up for a moment and back off the cologne.
I constantly hear about the coffee shop writers. I mean, J.K. Rowling, right? Sound impacts my ability to concentrate. Everyone tells me “headphones”, but I find that not being able to hear what’s happening in a public space to be unsettling, much the same way that mafioso like their backs to the wall in a restaurant.
I do a lot of writing at home when I’m in a productive phase. Those are joyful times for me, when I believe in my own potential as a writer. Still, emails pop up, the phone rings, texts ding and Skype beckons me. Hunger is never unabated, since I’m about 20 feet from the kitchen. If I’m really desperate to avoid the page, there is always housework to be done, rooms to be painted, yellow wallpaper to be stared at until I’m completely bonkers. Potential wanes in the face of interruption.
Random questions never go unanswered, even in the midst of writing. Is ragweed in season when I have my character having an allergic reaction? Google, oh wise one, tell me. An hour later, ragweed has linked me to the genus name ambrosia has linked me to the wine god Dionysus has linked me to numerous nude statues and a staff of fennel. And no, I still don’t know if ragweed is in season when my character’s nose is running nonstop.
This week, I’ve started using a new tech tool called Freedom. It blocks all internet connection for a timed period. You’d think with a little self control, I could do this without paying the $10 for the download. It was eye-opening to realize how often I attempted to access the internet reflexively. It was such a habit interruptus to check email, look something up, to even look at my weather app (seriously, I sit in front of a big damn window – weather is self-evident). I think it’s a brilliant little tool that, at bare minimum, made me realize what poor habits of concentration I have in front of the computer.
With the running “to do” list for household work, I decided that I needed to scout out a secondary location for some writing sessions. I visit our local library branch a couple of miles away at least once a week. I “discovered” that there is a quiet room with strict protocols and just tables and chairs. I’d never noticed it before – it was full of natural light, with huge windows that face a wooded area. How had I missed this gem?
Today is my first two hour writing session in The Quiet Room. I’m going in cold turkey, armed only with paper and pens. I used to write like that, with a lefty’s ink smear across every page. I think of it as an exploratory time – to figure out my whens and wheres of writing. I’ve been a hit-and-run writer for years. Now it’s time to park it and focus.
If you’re a writer or artist, how do you create space and time to work?
Administrative Note: The Green Study “What’s on the B Side of that 45?” Contest is revving up with some very thoughtful entries! You have until Sunday, December 7th, 2014, 12:00 pm (US Standard Central Time) to get your entry submitted.