Writing Aside #20.
I like the idea of meditating in the morning. In fact, I did it every day for about 20 years. For some people, it’s a gentle way to make the transition from the chaos of dreams to the illusion of structure. But, for me, it’s like telling a dog that just woke up to lie down again. Got to let that puppy out to run around for a while.
After one hit of caffeine and a distracted look out the window, the ideas start bubbling up. To try to let them go or tamp them down—what Plato called creatus interruptus—seems not only like an exercise in futility, but oddly unnatural.
Often, it’s just a phrase or sentence that rises to the surface. Occasionally, it’s a big-time holographic vision that can take months to elaborate.
When I was younger, I’d try to keep my legs crossed and mind relatively still, while quietly sending those thoughts off into a kind of mnemonic holding tank. But now, if I don’t catch them while they’re flying by, I’ll never remember them. Or, more importantly, why the hell I thought they were so brilliant in the first place. Which, often, they’re not.
Eventually, my mind stops on its own to take a breather. Like a dog who, after relentlessly chasing a tennis ball or frisbee for half-hour or so, is panting so hard its gullet is hanging out. She may act like she wants more, but is actually quite content to collapse at your feet.
In the same way, after spending a while calmly drinking coffee and frenetically chasing ideas, my mind is actually quite content to collapse at my feet.
That would be a good time to meditate. Of course, I have been all along.
(With thanks to Bella & Milly.)Dec082010
Writing Aside #10.
When I ran a small ad agency, my two biggest management challenges were temperature and music. Clients could be difficult; writers and designers could be creatively blocked; and suppliers could be late; but, eventually, we were always able to deal with those crises. The battles over temperature and music were chronic and insoluble. First, temperature (we’ll get to music another time):
Some people had their windows wide open. Some had heaters under their desks. Some wore sweaters. Others just t-shirts. Some people drank iced coffee while others needed hot. (As I remember, one person simply transitioned from gin-and-tonics to Jack Daniels straight-up.)
You could attribute some of this to the vagaries of temperature in a wide open office. But more had to do with the vagaries of personal comfort.
Eventually, we gave up, and installed some kind of fancy microprocessor-controlled thermostat that allegedly time-zoned the entire office. That way, the people who got in at 7am would be warm enough, and the ones who were still working at 7pm wouldn’t be overheated. Which worked fine until just about everybody figured out how to re-program the thing.
Some of my best writing has been done on chilly October mornings while looking for the guy in the basement who has to “bleed” the heating pipes every year so the radiators will start hissing. Or finding a big sheet to hang over the south window during that early December afternoon when the sun starts coming in at a certain angle, immediately raises the temperature 20 degrees, and makes my screen invisible in the process. Or bringing wood in to my cabin on a frigid February morning, starting a fire, and walking around rubbing my hands to get warm; and proceeding to making minute adjustments to that stove and the overhead fans throughout the day.
Putting on sweatshirts, taking off sweatshirts; heavier socks, lighter socks; woolen hats and baseball caps (you lose a lot of heat through a bald spot, you know); opening windows as wide as possible; raising and lowering storm windows; putting air conditioners in and taking them out; adjusting the placement and speed of fans and heaters; going outside for a walk because it’s still too hot or too cold…
It’s all part of the creative process. When you’re on a roll there are no distractions. When you’re not, everything is.
Shown here with our artist friend Jessica who also, clearly, knows how to dress for creative success.Sep172010
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