Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Writing inspiration: dreams, creativity, and process edition

Some writing inspiration ahead.

First of all, Maria Konnikova's "How to Beat Writer's Block" at The New Yorker sums the research up in a nutshell. Here are two especially good parts:
“I think one must trust the writing process. Understand that creativity requires nonlinearity and unique associative combinations,” he says. “Creative people do a lot of trial and error and rarely know where they are going exactly until they get there.”
That, in the end, seems to be the main message of research into writer’s block: It’s useful to escape from external and internal judgment—by writing, for instance, in a dream diary, which you know will never be read—even if it’s only for a brief period.
 I'm glad to hear this. I started keeping a dream journal of sorts about four years ago, and while I can't prove that it's helped, simply writing things down seems to have made things better. I don't write the dreams down here, usually (some exceptions: the Mad Men writing group, hiking dreams, and blog wonderland), but a lot of times I dream in movies--that is, watching a movie that I wrote and directed. Sometimes they're just comic skits but more often whole movies. Move over, Stephen Spielberg and Martin Scorsese.

Seriously, though, the stories I tell myself in my dreams have, I think, gotten less formulaic and more creative since I've been writing them down, and writing while dreaming has to help with writing while not unconscious.

And recently the whole work process has gotten easier--lots of ideas and a willingness to work on them.  There's still a little dither and blather early in the morning, but this week (spring break) I've been moving from writing on Thing 1 to revising Project A to drafting Project B to editing project C. And I want to work on them. That's the most amazing part.

What's working?
  1. Reconciling myself to the idea that, rain or shine, the only time I want--really want--to write new and creative things is after 7 p.m. and deciding that it's okay to do other things (edit, revise) before that. If you sit down to do it every day, who cares if it's 7 p.m. or 7 a.m.? 
  2. Building in little breaks with Pomodoro. Sometimes when I've been concentrating on a paragraph or sentence, even a couple of minutes of distraction (news sites, a glass of water, putting in a load of laundry) sends me back to it with a fresh perspective. 
  3. Logging the work, in the spreadsheet and in a little time notebook that I've been keeping. 
  4. Getting the reward of an X in the box at 
Nicoleandmaggie have the second in their series of writing productivity posts up; go read it.  Unless someone forces me, I'm always going to fail on two of the measures: (1) drinking coffee (never learned how) and (2) writing in the morning. But this week is showing me that those aren't the only ways to go.


gwinne said...

Whatever works works.

I was having a crisis moment pre-tenure when my diss director told me essentially "you've been doing it this way for years; you get stuff done, why change it?"

That was an important moment for me, about my needing to have different projects in different fields going at the same time

I think the night vs. morning thing might have to do with energy levels and sleep habits. I'm a morning writer (8:30-11:30 I can get a lot done, 8:30-10:00 is enough). Depending on the project, I can edit other times of day, and usually do researchy stuff in the afternoons.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Dr Crazy said the same thing about writing at night; it was the only way for her. She could do other stuff in the day, even the morning, but not writing.

I sometimes feel I'm surrounded by night owls, or maybe it's just my department and close friends. I'd like to find some of my lark people to hang out with. But maybe we're all at home writing in the morning and then wiping out early in the evening.

Anyway, it's definitely all about finding out what works for you and then doing it more. If you can. It seems to me that night-writers have it easier because no one schedules meetings at night, whereas my preference for morning writing is often thwarted by class schedules and meetings, plus needing an hour or more to get to the place where the classes and meetings take place. In my perfect life, I write all morning, leave around noon, and teach in the afternoon, but due to committee assignments, I haven't been able to do that since I got tenure, these (hrrmmm-hrm) years ago. Well, that and not wanting a 4- or 5-day on-campus week, due to afore-mentioned commute.

Sorry, this is starting to look like a post unto itself.

gwinne said...

Dame Eleanor, I'm similar.

On the other side: I wonder if there's less build up and dithering if writing is the FIRST thing you do? (i.e. It's 9:40 am, and I'm taking a quick break....but I've already done 1000 words today and am now going to switch to reading toward tomorrow's writing...)

undine said...

gwinne--Boice talks about some who are too anxious to write. That's me, first thing in the morning. I've tried before and after breakfast, no media, etc. The sense of putting words on paper, or even typing something, makes me so antsy that it's nearly intolerable, even though I know there's no rational reason why I can't put words on paper then. I'm better off if I can ease into it--read something I've written, wander around, etc. until I can quell that anxiety. Another trick: writing by hand in the morning, which is less official, somehow. The dream journal started as an attempt to quell the morning writing anxiety.

Dame Eleanor--They could be night owls, or they could be very quiet about their writing, or in another writing group. My colleagues are nice, but I'm not part of their writing groups partly because I have a long commute, too. That's a good point about fewer distractions and commitments at night.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to drink coffee to be productive; it's just that it's a correlation. However, a lot of people drink coffee *anyway* (they probably drink it when they're NOT productive, too). I personally love coffee. Whatever works for you. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I wonder if liking morning writing means I am a morning person?

... and to the post: I keep discovering that while schedules and discipline of the right kind are good, doing what you want is better. Remembering that, when I don't feel like doing anything, I can read those things I always wished I had time to read, but didn't think I could afford the time to read, is one of my great achievements this week.