Gentle reader, I fear it has been far too long … in many senses. Far too long since my last post here (and since ‘normal service’ here) and far too long since I have worked on A Thief & A Gentlewoman. I have noticed that my writing or the absence thereof is quite a good measure of my state of mind and reading is a similar miner’s canary for me.
Most of the time I can write and meet my daily targets (more on that another time), albeit sometimes with a gentle prod from my inner sensible person, and most of the time I can sit and read for hours and hours and while away a whole weekend in another world. What’s more, I’ll do those things gladly and feel fulfilled and inspired.
But (and you knew there had to be a ‘but’!) when real life gets hectic with not just things to be done, but things that must be done (very nearly on pain of death!), then my poor little canaries die and I find myself unable to concentrate on books (either the reading or the writing of them).
My poor canaries have been dead since I finished my Masters back in September. The gas that killed them (to drag out the metaphor as long as possible – my apologies, dear reader!) was a concoction of job-seeking, anxious (though thankfully temporary) unemployment, moving home twice in three months, moving 150 miles across the country, flat-hunting, trying to make new friends and several other little worries.
Of course, I am very lucky, like all writers and creative types, to be blessed with immortal canaries. They might die for a little while, but given time and nurturing they can be given new life (without returning as zombie canaries, thankfully! Yes, I actually got a relevant when I googled ‘zombie canary’. I’m as shocked as you are.).
I am also thankful for the fact that the nurturing of these canaries requires no poking about in a poo-encrusted birdcage. Now the flat is mostly unpacked and I have a semi-stable job, I felt it was time to get back into that writing mind-set, to rediscover my imaginary friends and rework my writerly routines. For the past week or two I’ve been getting myself back into reading, finding time to sit with a book and visit new worlds. Reading is my way of opening the door to ‘inspiration’ (or whatever you want to call it), it gets my mind working in that way that comes up with hair-brained schemes and crazy ideas that sometimes turn out to be nuggets that can be hammered into something more. Also, for me, reading has been the first step of emerging from that place of being overwhelmed by Real Life. If I could read again, then I felt pretty sure I could write again.
Now you’re probably asking what this means for you and why you should care. I don’t blame you, but I really do have a point (for a change, perhaps!). To be able to create your way out of a funk, you need to know yourself. I don’t mean read some self-help book or go to a psychologist (though in some situations this may well help), I mean know what works for you creatively. And this goes for any kind of creativity, not just writing.
What gets your ideas flowing? What gives you that keen little jumpy feeling that has you positively chomping at the bit to get your hands on a pen/keyboard/instrument/needle/camera/[insert your creative object of choice here]?
When you have a creative idea, pay attention to the things that get you there, your triggers, your catalysts. When you are being creative, pay attention to what you need to do that. Experiment with what you need to do that. And I mean need. I don’t mean ‘would ideally like’. I’m not talking about that sacred ideal of the Writer’s Study with that Perfect Desk and the World’s Most Comfortable Chair and a million books lining the walls all Perfectly arranged by subject … I mean what you really and truly find that you Need. I can’t tell you what that is, no one can, you need to learn what those specific things are, because they’re different for everyone.
But a few word of caution – be realistic and be honest. Is it true that you can only possibly write after you have cleaned your whole house from top to bottom, re-arranged the furniture so that it’s 100% feng shui-ified, eaten the world’s most perfect meal and meditated for at least 16 hours while the planets align for the first time in 1,000 years? I thought not.
I’ve learned that there are certain things that I do need – quiet (not silence, that’s a ‘would be nice’, I mean no TV, no music and no/minimal distractions*), computer (preferably as I can type quicker than I can write by hand) or pen/pencil and paper and for my mind to be active. I also need to make myself get on with it rather than making excuses not to write or to do something else instead. This has led to my particular writing routine.
(*A friend of mine on the other hand, likes nothing better than to write in a cafe with the bustle and distraction all around him.)
And overall, I need to not have large issues hanging over me like I have over the last few months.
So today when I got home from work, I sat down while my mind was still active and I set myself the target of 250 words. A small target, but highly achieveable even though I’m getting back into writing and Quin’s world and story. I beat that target by a decent amount, which made me feel good, which makes me look forward to writing time again tomorrow, which will help me build up momentum and continue to tap back into my inspiration.
So while that dreadful drug of ‘inspiration’ may seem to have vanished sometimes, whether you write, paint, sew, compose or pursue some other form of creativity, you can still claim it back. The trick is knowing what gets that little creator inside you dancing uncontrollably until you can get that ink on that page. It is never lost for long unless you let it be.