Sunday, December 19, 2010

Getting Creative, Part 4: Work Differently

I consider myself a creature of habit. Many of us do, but we’re more flexible, more adaptable, than we might think. When we wake up a few minutes late, we don’t refuse to get out bed and wait until tomorrow when we wake up on time. When an emergency or tragedy strikes, we don’t say to ourselves, “But I had plans momentarily, so I will keep them.” When our bosses tell us that we need to show up 15 minutes early or stay an hour late to meet a pressing business need, we don’t say, “Sorry, but my work mind functions only from 9 to 5.” We deal with situations as they pop up, often in spite of our best-laid plans.

The same goes for our writing system. If you notice that you’re just not producing at the same level as usual, then maybe the problem is not you but your system. For instance, I well know that I create best early in the morning, even before sunrise, but my work as a writing consultant often demands that I leave the house as early as 5:30 a.m. When this is the case, I need a Plan B, which, needless to say, is to write at night. I have a Plan C and a Plan D as well. If I hit the late evening too tired to write anything creatively, I turn to those moments in the writing process that do not demand much creativity: revising, editing, and proofreading. Or I do some planning by researching more about my topic.

So how can you work differently? Listen to music when you’re writing, or turn off the music if you always listen to music. Find a different time to work, or a different place. Start on an entirely
new topic unrelated to your current writing project. Spend more time reading or researching and less time drafting, or spend more time drafting but at different intervals. Try longhand writing when staring at the computer is not cutting it. Take a walk or do some other exercise before and during your writing. The possibilities are limitless, depending on your system. Breaking routine can unlock the door to your next burst of creativity.

Books by Philip Vassallo
How to Write Fast Under Pressure
  • The Art of E-mail Writing
  • The Art of On-the-Job Writing
  • The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching Through Philosophy