fireflies

Today, when feeling slightly overwhelmed and uninspired, I went outside and sat on my lawn. I listened to the nothingness—to the silence, to the wind in the trees. I breathed in the fresh air and watched a bird flit through the branches overhead. And, I felt a lot better and more inspired when I came back inside.

I suffer from being driven. Sometimes, that’s good. Having drive means we get things done. But if you’re me, it can also lead to “work-a-holism” and “self-flagellation for a lack of anything to show for your time.” Meaning… I don’t take time off. I finish writing one book, I start in on another one. Writing 500 words isn’t good enough; I should be able to produce three times that. I should be able to get a huge amount done in one day (and on a good day, I can multitask like you would not believe).

But often, my creative tank runs on empty and I find myself frustrated and tired. I’m expounding too much energy and asking my brain to switch gears too many times in one day—from the editor to the creative writer, to the blogger, to the analytical “left-brained” INTJ.

Last week, in forcing myself simply to focus on one thing for two days in order to finish it, I discovered something: the mind can work better, and you can produce more, when you have a set time to do ONE THING.

Mentally, it prepares you for that time and channels your creativity in the direction it needs to go, because it is without distraction. It’s much easier to get up and start writing fiction than it is to try and write it after checking non-fiction sources for two hours before you start (e-mail, tumblr, Goodreads, Facebook, etc).

Knowing in advance what you plan to accomplish on a particular day also helps you mentally prepare for it. You can gather ideas and renew your “excitement” because you’re “waiting for that day to arrive” to put into words what’s in your head. Mentally, you’re not only giving your brain a break from gear-switching, you’re also training it to be productive in the direction you want it to go, at a certain time.

(This is why so many writers encourage writing at a particular time of the day—it programs your brain to “produce” on a regular basis, and you learn to live by a “writing schedule.”)

This week, I’m going to try an experiment: I’ll assign different creative tasks to different days so that no project gets in the way of another one. It’ll be interesting to see what happens on the days my computer isn’t to be used for anything except book-writing. Can I withstand the temptation to procrastinate by checking my e-mail? Can I go a few days without checking my e-mail? Will I have a meltdown? What other uses will my time be put to?

I guess you’ll have to come back in a week and find out!