Monday, August 19, 2013

On writing: Charts, lists, and inspiration--fail, fail, fail

I'm usually a big fan of charts and all those little tools that help you fake inspiration until the real inspiration comes along.  What's that thing that gets said about Hollywood--"If you can fake sincerity, you've got it made"? It usually works for inspiration, too.

Today, though, the charts, lists, and inspiring words just plain failed me, or rather, I failed me.

First I looked at GetaLifePhD's post about making a template. Great! I've done that before, all color coded and everything. Make an appointment with your writing! Pay yourself (with writing) first!

But then I couldn't get Google Calendar to sync correctly with the iPhone and iPad. Appointments would show up on one or two but not all of them. Sometimes they'd show up twice. Of course I had to Google this and solve it, because solving tech problems is fun and is also a great way to avoid writing.

An hour and a half later I was much wiser in the ways of possible solutions but none of them actually, you know, worked.

Enough of the chart, I said.  Bardiac suggests lists. Fine. I like lists.  But wait: I have the wrong kind of notebook for keeping track of progress. I have a Moleskine here, but that is not the right kind. Moleskines are for writing, not for lists. I must look online for the right kind and read reviews of notebooks this instant.  Many minutes later, I learn that the right kind is not online but at Staples.

Feeling uninspired, I decide on some writing inspiration, which Dame Eleanor has helpfully provided for her Maygust group: a link to With that link, I discovered that reading about writing routines is a lot like eating pistachios: "Just one more," I would say, and then "Just one more."

And they all said "write in the morning," when by now it was afternoon, so I had failed again.

All this while the various unsynced alarms and warnings were going off in Google Calendar and iCal, reminding me of what I was supposed to be--but wasn't--doing.

Good advice by bloggers, poorly applied by me.

But the night is still young, or youngish, and where there's time, there's writing hope.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Michael Lewis liked to write late at night as well as early in the morning. Churchill worked in the afternoon and again after dinner. Flaubert didn't even wake up till 10. You're just having one of those can't-get-started moments.

I do the template thing with a table in WordPerfect, but that post infuriated me because of the one course (which she admitted is a privilege). My campus days are filled with back-to-back teaching and meetings, which means a lot of the non-campus days are about recovery; recovery includes work, but I'm not very energetic on the day after constant "on"ness. But I'm not willing to decide I won't write, either. Maybe "one sentence" or "one bibliographic entry" on Mondays; some such tiny step, anyway. And I need some local equivalent of Z's going to the beach for recovery on non-campus days. There is nothing so restorative as salt water. Wish we had some here.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. Yes, if your subconscious is really determined not to write, all sorts of things can get in the way. Sometimes even after you "just get started".

Writing in the mornings when I actually have something I should be writing works for me best because in the morning I'm too groggy to be able to give a lot of those distractions the mental energy they require to actually distract. I'm not smart enough to distract myself at 8am. But that only works if I plan out the night before what I'm supposed to do.

This semester I'm teaching stats at 8am! (And then again much later in the afternoon.) I hope it doesn't destroy my productivity for the rest of the day.

undine said...

Dame Eleanor--so, so true about having some recovery time after being on campus with meetings and all. I wish there were a beach around here, too.

Nicoleandmaggie--that's what evenings are for me. I'm too tired to fight the process and all the distractions, so I can write more easily. On the night I posted this, I went on to write 1100 useful words, for example. Good luck with teaching those bookended courses.

Tanya Golash-Boza said...

Did you figure out the iCal/Google thing? My solution has been to use iCal and drop Google calendar. It works pretty well, but not seamless.

undine said...

Welcome, Tanya! Right now I'm using Google calendar, which seems to push appointments to at least one of the iCal calendars.

Anonymous said...

Fie on `write in the morning'. In the morning I am no good for anything involving creativity or interaction until I've sucked down quite a lot of tea. Morning is for reading. Afternoon is for admin. and evening is for writing, when you can tell yourself you've done enough to be free for a while.

I realise that there's many ways in which this is not ideal but in a regular academic life it's the only way I can make it work.