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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Safari Preparation

In my first post, I acknowledged the safari of my writer's soul coincided with my trip of a lifetime--journeying to Australia for a few adventures. Thing is, the soul came first. I'm determined to discover how to free my mind while focusing on what's important. You can travel from your desk, from your patio, garden, or bedroom. You're welcome to eavesdrop on my physical travels, but my hope is that you find what pleases you, what stimulates you and your writing.

Any real journey begins with preparation. Stephen King, in his book On Writing, suggests having a writer's tool box, which contains tools necessary to write a decent story. But what about your cognitive process? When you sit down to write, are you prepared emotionally? Mentally? Spiritually? I'm referring to having peace, not turmoil. It's difficult to do your job well if you're flustered over other things in your life or confused about what to write the moment you sit down.
My daughter-in-law is taking a yoga class. She and the other students expected a relaxed, easy-going series of stretches, not the energetic workouts they have. While the frenetic pace raises her heart rate, her body isn't accustomed to the pain. Our writing is much like that. Unless we're used to sitting down and going full throttle, our engines choke a bit, and we're not enjoying our writing process until we are toned.

How do we get toned?

For me, it's a physical as well as mental thing. Something like Tai Chi, yoga, or a simple walk around the block--anything that helps me stretch physically and get into a mindset that is conducive to writing. For you, it may be doing dishes or laundry. (I truly enjoy doing laundry--weird, I know.) One friend must bake cookies before she can write.

Some of us have physical limitations. Mine is a head injury that caused fluid on the brain. If I walk or climb, I take extra precautions or I fall. Cognitively I have short term memory issues. Working on a computer is ideal since I can easily go back over what I've just written. It's not a poor me's a celebration that I "get" to write and flex my atrophied memory muscles.

If I'm stumped on something when I sit down to write, I pen a letter, or type one, to my folks, or I handle my emails. Often, a few games of Freecell or solitaire prepare me.

The best thing I've found for ensuring that I write what is on my agenda is to end in a good place the night before. If I go to sleep knowing something exciting is about to happen in my story, I'm more inclined to jump right in as soon as I sit down at the computer. Delayed gratification doesn't work for everyone, but it helps me.

Good friend and fellow writer Sally Berneathy once said that we are writing when we're shopping, fixing the plumbing or whatever task we're performing. Those are times our fingers aren't moving over the keyboard, but our minds are focusing on something detrimental to our craft. For me, that's when I let my mind wander, travel, explore. Unfortunately, I can't do that when I cook. I've burnt a few meals by not focusing on the task at hand.

I've also found it helpful to send off for brochures on topics of interest that I include in my writing. I'm a visual writer. The more I have at hand to stimulate my imagination, the better I work. Think of Penelope Garcia in "Criminal Minds" with her array of toys on her desk, her funky ink pens, or Abby Sciuto's music in "NCIS".

For you, having fashion magazines, shoe catalogues, or plants growing on the windowsill as you gaze up from your writing may do the trick.

Virginia Wolfe wrote a marvelous essay called "A Room Of One's Own" that I Iove. Sometimes I listen to books on tape, readings by Meryl Streep or someone else whose voice relaxes me just before I write. I even watch a tear-jerker romance to put me in the mood to do my black moment scenes. Listening to Barry White sing...well, you can only imagine what that man's voice will do to a writer crafting a love scene. Are you writing about first love or last? Watch "Murphy's Romance" with Sally Field and James Garner.

If you you're in a dilemma as to how to get motivated and discover what works best for you, read Wishcraft by Barbra Sher. If you have a fear of failure or even success, try Susan Jeffries' excellent book, Feel The Fear, And Do It Anyway. Think life stinks? Read Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life--all the way through from first page to last without skipping to the end. No cheating.

Establish your personal writer's tool box. Prepare yourself for the trips your mind craves. Your writing will flow easier, and you'll be richer for the experiences awaiting you.


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