Before I had my daughter, I could drop 5 pounds just by skipping a couple of meals. No breakfasts, no lunches for 3 days and bam! back to my fighting weight. Post-baby, the old ways didn’t work so hot. I could starve myself but barely lose an ounce. I learned the hard way that I would have to eat in a completely different way to lose the 30 pounds I’d gained.
Believe it or not, that little allegory has everything to do with the a few epiphanies I had today upon finishing Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. You see, before the holidays, I’d created a few ‘creative habits’ to get me focused each writing day. I’d get up, feed the horse, spend an hour reading email and scouring the net for news. Next up, a shower and then down to the business of getting my head in the game which meant listening to a playlist entitled “Pre-Write” while playing Freecell until I won.
Then I’d write.
Silly? Maybe. But it worked for me. I wrote (and rewrote) several extensive outlines for books either in progress or ones I’d hoped to work on in the near future. I even wrote a few short stories this past fall.
Then the pattern was broken thanks to Santa Claus, a menorah and the five thousand things that knock us off our schedules during the holiday. I came back, forced myself to believe I was back in the ‘zone’ but my heart wasn’t into it.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, there’s days and weeks we’re going to feel like hacks when we work — at whatever we do. But seriously, life’s too short. More importantly, I’m a big believer that if your heart isn’t it, the world will eventually figure it out. Disingenious, anyone?
That’s where Ms. Tharp’s brutally honest and insightful book comes. Playing a round of Freecell isn’t going to get me bupkiss. I need to rein in the unruly child that is my creative industry. She gives some excellent advise about how to find your own methods of madness to do so, from physical actions such as creating a literal box for each project, to developing the objectivity you need to not beat yourself up when your work is less that perfect. Deadlines are discussed, natch, but so is the value of creating and finding the spine of your work… and no, that doesn’t mean having the backbone to see it through. It means knowing the point of your work in question so you never wander too far afield and get lost in a morass of pointlessness.
New habits for me? Up an hour earlier. Feed my animals, do my 1 hour of internet but then, a bit of stretching: a 1/2 of literal body bending as I think out what I want to write that day. In other words, a daily review of my story’s spine so that morass never comes too close.