Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Creativity and the perfect writing space

So what to write about today? The world is a sunny, bright, white wonderland of snow today. A wonderland by my description perhaps most because I don't need to go out in it. On my desktop is a scene of tropical sandy warmth and if I close my eyes I can feel the sun, hear the ocean, smell the salt on the air.

One of Jack Heffron's prompts invites the writer to envision his or her perfect writing space. Blocked writers often say things like, "If only I had the money to redo the guest bedroom, I'd turn it into a writing space. Then I could write." It's easy to fall into the trap of "if only". Many writers think that they have to quit their jobs and move to the country or the mountains to write a novel. A trip through National Novel Writing Month will cure them of that belief. I've learned that showing up is the most important action when it comes to writing. A writer friend of mine calls it "Ass In Chair", or "AIC". You sit down and you write. It doesn't matter if you're in the mood or not. You don't need to be in the mood to write. If it's sunny, you write. If it's cloudy, you write. If a foot of snow has fallen on your house, you write, then you go shovel snow for a while. When that's done, you come back and write some more.

It can be hard to face the blank page/screen, but all you need to do is put something down. Make a mark. Then make another one. Pretty soon your Muse will come out to play. Can you envision her peeking around the corner, wondering what all that writing is about? She's too curious to stay away for long.

My ideal writing space would be warm and brightly lit, probably in a little cottage by the ocean. I have a backdrop for my computer of a view out of a whitewashed window, framed with light drapes, looking out on a pristine white beach and a crystal blue sea. With a little imagination I can be in that place, that imaginary place of comfort and perfect organisation (as my real-world workspace is a bit cluttered at the best of times), and allow it to refresh me. The sound of seabirds calling drifts through like music, timed by nature to dance along the rush of the ocean up to the shore. I sit at the window with a notebook of thick, beautiful paper, a stunningly crafted fountain pen in my hand, or perhaps at an old-fashioned typewriter, which, in my fantasy, is as easy to type upon as the laptop keyboard I'm really using. My Muse drifts in, etherial in a flowy white dress, and smiles benevolently on me as I write, ideas spilling like wine overflowing a crystal goblet.

But alas, in the real world it's very much winter time. Here it's -3 degrees Centigrade, and to my internal thermometer, anything below 10 C is too cold. And while it's bright and sunny, it's a bit too bright. The sunlight reflects off the newly-fallen snow and can be offensive to eyes that aren't prepared for it. Here in my landlocked town, I won't be hearing the ocean anywhere but in my memory or from a disc of recorded surf sounds. I can warm the place up, put on an extra sweater, bring back the sensations of my fantasy writing space in my mind. With the CD running, I might even begin to think I was in that little cottage, peacefully nestled against the beach, with nothing to interrupt my creativity.

You don't need an ideal space to begin writing. Writing needs only a few tools, which are easily accessible to nearly everyone. People who take time off to write their novels find they suddenly have a lot of other things to do that aren't writing their novels.

So sit down and take half an hour to write something today. It doesn't matter if you call yourself a writer or not. Human beings are, by our very nature, creative beings. You don't have to write great things. You can make poetry with a grocery list. Capture a moment of your kids' lives in a little vignette. Imagine a wonderful place to be. Describe it with words. Don't let the unique ideas in your head get away. We all have interesting things floating about in our heads. Grab one and capture it on the page. You'll be glad you did.

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