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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

How I Work

On one of the back burners of my brain, I've been thinking about how I work, by which I mean, the conditions I like to work in.  It all started when I read a Meme on Facebook (can you believe it?), and I started noticing little preferences I had about my workspace.  When I sat down to scribble (read: type) out a thought about this phenomenon, it quickly spiraled downhill into a blog post:

Where do I write?  Theoretically, I can write anywhere, especially here in the computer age.  And I have.  I’ve written at home, in various parts of my home.  At work (only a couple times, when it was slow).  In my high school math class (when I was finished with my work – see?  I’m a good kid – really!).  During breaks at a briefing.  On my computer, my laptop, my netbook.  In a restaurant.  At Starbucks, naturally.  At Barnes and Noble.  On a walk.  On the subway.  In the car (once #hazardous, #don’ttrythisathome #SoRidiculousI’veResortedToUsingHashtags).  On the train in Germany.  At my various residences prior to the current one.  In the park.  In the yard.  In hotel rooms.  Etc.

Still, when it comes to serious, intentional, prolonged writing, a good, specified work space is a beautiful thing.  In the past, this was B&N or Starbucks, because I didn’t have a good space at home, but one can’t go to these places and purchase food and hot chocolate and Nantucket Nectars every day.  One would go broke.  Thankfully, I now own a lovely house with some architectural character, and I turned the dining room into my studio.  I have surrounded myself with beautiful things – my paintings from Afghanistan and Jordan and various other travels.  A nice display case with the artsier souvenirs from my own travels and those of family members.  And of course, my writing desk.  It’s gorgeous, and I refuse to put a computer on it – the entire surface is available to me to sprawl my notebooks, notecards, papers, pens, pencils, highlighters, books, awesome owl bookends for my most treasured art-and-God books, and my elbows; underneath is also clear, for unrestricted leg room no matter what angle I’m sitting at.  It’s wonderful.  It tends to get cluttered.

Clutter is fine.  It can be remarkably satisfying to survey a nice, productivity-caused clutter.  But leave it that way, and I find myself avoiding the desk.  So, a lesson I have learned about myself: I need a clean, organized surface to start work.  If I’m to sit down at the dining room table (where I find myself doing all of my poetry editing), the entire table must be clean and cleared of any non-poetry related stuff.  To sit and compose correspondence or write something new, my studio writing desk must be neat and tidy.  Right angles and all that, with sufficient space for my notebook and elbow-room.  Although I enjoy organization in it's place, I’m not at all a neat-freak, so I find this very interesting.

And what about time of day?  I am my most creative from the evening to the middle of the night, but that could be as much a product of my work schedule as it is of my life-long night owl tendencies.  At any rate, a nice creative prompt can help alleviate this tendency; can pull the opening hours of reflection closer to mid-afternoon.

Reading is the best prompt, because just about any genre can get the creative juices flowing, as long as it’s not on a computer.  Computers are distracting and screens are unimaginative.  Hard-copy books are portals.  Some movies or other multi-media can be very inspiring, as well, but most are just brain-suckers - great for relaxing, not inspiration.  Music can be very helpful, depending on the style, content and volume.  And listening to a good sermon by Ravi Zacharias, for example, can give lovely insights that may be applicable to what I’m writing, or just get the brain ticking, which is always good.  Reading the Bible does much the same, besides also having an unmatched ability to restore the mind and soul, among its other qualities.  And prayer.  Prayer is one of those things that seems intangible until you get a direct answer.  I find it very helpful to pray about my writing – I may not pen something five minutes after praying, but it always makes me open, which leads to writing sooner or later.

These are some of the things I’ve noticed about my habits as I turn my attention more and more toward serious writing.  I'm curious if others have such finicky preferences.  Somebody should do a study...