Monday, June 28, 2010

Creativity and Time

Back to our regularly-scheduled blog posts!

I found something interesting when I was on the cruise.  I was interested in writing again.  Not so much since I arrived home, nor in the days that followed, because I had now to tidy up my house (I’m not hiring that house sitter again) and catch up on fascinating things like washing and grocery shopping.

I wondered why I used to write more when I was at school.  As I went to university, then got my first real job that didn’t involve a checkout, I did notice my writing dropping to minimal levels.  Looking at my archives, the steady decrease in my output was a little depressing.  Given that I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was 5 years old, the idea that I was writing less was not a welcome one.

I also found that events in my life were affecting me more.  Without the catharsis of writing, I was unable to work my way through the large and small issues that arose in daily life.  But writing takes so much life, so much energy, and while it’s the activity I love most (games, believe it or not, are actually a close second), it’s also the one I let fall away the most often. 

These past three days I have been writing a document of character biographies, worldbuilding and a chapter outline for a novel I want to write.  I’ve never been this organised before – I’ve always been one of those writers who gets excited by where the story is going, to which elegant planning is a devious enemy.  When I was younger, if I knew the ending to a story, I didn’t want to write it.  Now I start with the endings and work back from there, figuring out the beginning.  I still have trouble with the middle, so I think I’ll enlist some help this time around.

I’m still concerned that I won’t make it.  I started this blog not only to muse about certain aspects of writing that were of interest to me, but to get back into the habit of writing every day.  For all my complaints about other people choosing to let their dreams die, I let my own drift out of sight.  Why sit down and write when you can play?  Why create when you can partake?  This is the challenge that faces me at the end of a long day – do I take the easy path, or the rewarding path?  Gandalf would be very displeased with me.

The thing is, being creative requires sleep.  Sleep requires time.  Time after work is a precious commodity, all too easily devoured by chores and cooking.  I don’t even have children.  My goodness.  Although I suppose, if I did, I might have more time, since I wouldn’t be working.  Then again, I'd have children to look after.  What a conundrum.  I used to find it so much easier to write when my day job didn’t involve computers, either.  Working on the checkout was a blissful way to disengage my brain, so that by the time I’d finished work, everything story-related was sorted out and ready to go.  Working as a lecturer, or actually writing games, is far from intellectually restful.  Not that I’m complaining – give me skilled labour any day – but I’m finding it interesting to draw these comparisons, to understand why I haven’t been giving writing the love it deserves.

Let’s start with sleep, since that’s the easiest one to fix.  Well, if our cat would stop waking us up, that one might be pretty much solved, but it does also come down to wanting to do too many things after work, and either not having the time, or staying up to do things that aren’t actually fulfilling, but are either enjoyable or time-wasting.  It seems strange to stay up late to undertake time-wasting activities, but that’s why I wrote my post about Facebook games, in an effort to convince myself to give them up.  I’m happy to say it mostly worked.  Apart from that, I think it’s part of taking on a full-time job – you may not get to do much during the week, but by goodness you enjoy your weekends.  The problem then is that you have so many things to do on the weekend that writing becomes another task that falls by the wayside.  By this logic, writing each night may be the best way to go about it.

But I forgot about a certain time of the day!  Morning!  One of the theories of creativity is that you’re more creative after a good night’s sleep than at the end of a long day, so getting up early could work a charm.  I’ve heard of many people who simply got up an hour earlier each day to get their writing done, and finished their novel in no time.  If you’re getting enough sleep, that might not be such a task.  So, there are two possible ways to improve one’s writing quota.  Let’s look at another aspect.

Intellectual jobs.  Oh, oh dear.  They kill me.  At the end of the day, I am Vegetable Woman.  I enjoy my job, I enjoy the challenge, but sometimes all that sitting and thinking and reading and talking about writing does my head in.  After that, all I want to do is sleep, or play games.  For someone in my profession, that certainly doesn’t sound ideal.  So what can I do to offset the necessary cognitive deficit caused by my job?

I enjoy baking.  Usually I don’t follow a recipe, I just throw things together and see what happens, but that can be stressful if it doesn’t work out.  That and baking every day would quickly become expensive, and more than a little fattening.  I enjoy reading, but that again is an intellectual pursuit.  Playing games usually takes far more time than I mean it to, and cooking dinner isn’t nearly as relaxing as you’d think.  Cuddling my cat helps, but I find it difficult to sit still, so that doesn’t last.  There has to be something that will relax my mind without it being a nap.

Then again, maybe that’s another argument for morning writing.  Get out of bed, turn on the computer, and write for an hour before the day actually begins.  Of course, then I have to be careful not to let my getting-ready-for-work time expand to fill the available space, like my cat does when I roll over at night, so I guess that means setting some pretty strict time boundaries.  Oh dear.

The other option is to write tidbits throughout the day.  I don’t think I’d be any good at that – I’ve never tried.  I suppose it’s possible to edit the emotion in later, but I usually have so much to do at work that it’s unlikely I’d get anything done even if I remembered.  Couple that with shared office space, and suddenly the idea appeals a lot less.  I’d like to be one of those writers who doesn’t get distracted by outside influences, but even while writing this blog post, I’m getting distracted by my boyfriend chopping wood in Fable 2.  Not in a bad way.  I just want to see what’s going on.  I think curiosity is something every writer must have, but you’re joking if you say it doesn’t make us more whimsical. 

So writing, in the mornings, after a good night’s sleep, with no distractions.  Sounds excellent.   But, for now, more Fable 2 co-op.  Oh deary, deary me.

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