Wednesday, October 26, 2011

More on showing up

If showing up is half the creative battle, staying put is the other half. Many of us struggle with the modern addiction to email, and I'm someone who's developed a Pavlovian relationship with the little letter icon that shows up in the bottom left corner of my computer. I used to salivate when the little bell rang and then I turned that off. Now I find myself casting my eyes in the direction of that corner a gazillion times a day. So I do my creative writing on the laptop in the dining room where there is no wifi.

Also like many of us, I tell myself I check email to service my clients by responding quickly or seeing if somebody needs me, but the truth is most of the time, I check email because I'm doing something else I don't feel comfortable doing.

This morning I got up again and sat down to the novel first thing. I didn't have the same level of eager anticipation because yesterday I had finished a long chapter in which a great story unfolded bit by bit between two characters. I was very pleased with the writing of that, which had taken five morning hours, but now it was over and I didn't know what was going to happen next.

I didn't balk at sitting down to write, I just didn't know what to write. For the first 20 minutes, I struggled to stay put. I wanted to get up, make more tea, check the sunrise, let the cats in or out or in again, and most definitely I wanted to check email. Email is far more seductive than the other distractors because it can go on and on. Not only can you see who emailed, you can read their message and respond or check a link or buy a groupon or read someone else's blog. You can then go in and see what kittens are up for adoption at the Humane Society or check your bank balance.

But I didn't do any of those things. I stayed put. And I thought about my characters both directly and out of the corner of my mind's eye and I waited. And about 20 minutes into the hour, two big ideas come trundling out of the creative closet and I knew what to do.

Checking email wouldn't have had the same result at all.