***Warning: This blog post contains implied nudity.***
Once upon a time, a good writing session made me neurotic. If I pounded out a couple thousand words easily, then I inevitably got frustrated afterward. I’d drive myself mad trying to figure out how I had gotten into that tingly state of transcribing. These magical writing sessions were rare for me and I’d do anything to figure out how to beckon them at will. Wouldn’t that be swell? Do you have any idea how many novels I would have written by now if only I could have cracked that code? Gobs of them, I’m telling you.
Trying to solve this mystery always ended up seeming silly. When I should have just been happy for the occasional leap in progress, I’d push back from the keyboard and say, “How in the world did that happen?” I figured there had to be a formula. I’d analyze a hundred factors, including the time of day, how well I had slept the night before, what had been on my mind and even what I had eaten with the hope that I could set up circumstances the next day to repeat the easy flow of words. If you are a writer, smiling right now, can I get an amen?
Guess what? I’ve conquered it, so I’m cured—mostly. I eventually found my holy grail, or at least a visible edge of it. Ready?
I call it “Scenery Deprivation”. That’s right. The less I see with my eyes, the more I see in my head. Weird, isn’t it? I know.
I understand that every writer is different. I happen to need quiet stillness or I’ll be distracted and can’t hear my thoughts. Other writers are inspired by writing in busy or scenic places. They excite their muses in crowded coffee shops, soaking in the sounds of sputtering espresso machines and competing conversations. They either integrate or ignore these stimuli while typing. That amazes me. In that situation, I quit writing to stare and listen. Yes, I’m a diagnosed gawker. I’ll take the memories home and write about them there, but I can’t work on my story amidst the chatter and visual busyness. And if I have a coffee, I’d be too worried about spilling it on my laptop to focus. I’m wound up tight like that and they really should make those tables bigger or add a cup holder, but anyway… See?
One day a blessed epiphany descended upon me when I realized that many of my best writing sessions occurred right after I had taken a shower. That’s really deep if you think about it. (You know, the whole cleansing thing?) I realized that in the shower I’m alone with my thoughts and there is absolutely nothing to see—uh—virtually nothing. This partial sense-deprivation works for me. My eyes see only tiles, my ears hear only the water’s hiss and without distractions, character issues get worked out, often snapping into place and new ideas aren’t so evasive. It’s fabulous. I can’t believe I didn’t realize this sooner. To be honest, each shower I take doesn’t cause thousands of words to jump from my fingers, but, in general, I exit loaded with new stuff to put down whether that stuff ultimately works or not. And, on top of it, I smell great.
Seems like a cliché writer’s fantasy to own a summer cottage with a private upstairs writing suite with big windows that overlook a beach, sailboats, birds, cyclers, shops and palm trees all under fluffy white clouds. I’d find a lot of pleasure in that, but wouldn’t get much writing done. I’d be busy trying to figure out which in the shifting string of low-flying pelicans was the leader. I’d wonder how the sailboat got that wacky name. (BTW – that kid’s kite crashed three times because he never untangles the string completely.) I’d probably order food and people-watch until dusk and then kick myself for lack of progress. Don’t get me wrong—I’d love to have the “cottage problem”, but if I were to design my ultimate writing room, it wouldn’t look like that. Instead, I’d gut a walk-in closet, remove the shelves and put in a light-dimmer. I’d add a firm, comfortable chair and a small table holding a laptop that can’t pull up email, Facebook or Twitter. Whew! Talk about a view! Boy, I could draft some serious content in there, couldn’t I? I don’t have a spare closet to convert into this now, but someday I will.
Oh, and it will have an adjoining shower.