There’s a lot of faffing to be done before you can actually write, isn’t there? Or is it just me?
A lovely friend of mine recently referred to this inability to just sit down and write as “circling the chair”. How long do you have to circle the chair before you actually manage to sit in it and put pen to paper?
There’s a way round it, and it’s to do your chair-circling away from the chair.
Bear with me.
You know what you want to write. (I mean the basics: a blog post, a short story. You needn’t be any more specific than that.) Hold the thought in your mind as you go about your business. Write down anything, however mundane it seems, that comes into your mind about it as you load the dishwasher, change a nappy, write a business strategy – whatever you’re spending your time on each day. That way, when you do have your Chair Time, you don’t need to circle because you’ve got a small stack of random thoughts to work with. It doesn’t matter if you think they’re rubbish, or you don’t know where they’re going. Even if you just spend a few minutes typing them out, at least you’ll have started writing. And, like rolling downhill, once you’ve started it’s easier to keep going!
Open up an imaginary bag in front of you. Just for a while, put into it your judgement and self-criticism; the mental to-do list you’re continually adding to; your ticking inner clock; your need to be right and sensible and useful. Add anything else that feels heavy. Then zip up the invisible bag and put it to one side.
Grab a pen – any pen – and paper, nothing fancy.
Lie down on your belly on the floor, pen in hand and paper in front of you. Kicking your heels in the air is optional, but it helps release the child inside.
(I appreciate that getting down to floor level may not be as easy as it once was, but there are alternatives: sitting on a beanbag; curling up in a corner of the sofa; even sitting on a cushion and leaning against the wall. But do try the floor if you possibly can. Your child-mind will respond.)
Write words you like; write a story about goblins and fairies; write something that makes you laugh; write a poem where the first letter of every line spells your favourite rude word. It doesn’t matter what you write. It only matters that you do it. It’s not work, it’s play.
Enjoy your playing, and when you’ve finished, go and bake chocolate chip fairy cakes.
I can write in complete silence. That’s my favourite writing environment. Birdsong and the wind in the trees are acceptable background sounds.
I can write in a busy, noisy place too – as long as I can’t hear the specifics of the noise. (So a huge hum of conversation is fine, but if I can hear every word my neighbour is saying to his companion, it drives me nuts. I have been known to move tables in cafes and trains.)
I can write while someone is watching television in the same room – but it takes ten times as long (for once I’m not exaggerating) and is an almost unpleasant experience. Having someone else’s words collide with my own makes me almost seasick. I think that’s why I can’t even write to music; the words in my head crash into the words of the song or notes of the music and create what It feels like a physical disturbance.
Sometimes, though, if writing is to happen, it has to happen in less than ideal circumstances. Such as writing slowly and haltingly in the room where a kids’ film is playing – so I don’t have to choose between being Mummy on Duty for a poorly boy and being Writer on Duty so I can continue to be true to myself.
What stops or slows your writing? And do you write anyway?