I’m deep into working on Arctic Rising at full pace once more, after spending a few weeks with Arctic Rising on a back burner, getting fewer words in per day, as I focused mainly on a novella for a secret project (hopefully you’ll get to hear more about that soon).
I’d left the book at a bit of a junction, I wasn’t entirely sure how to get over the next four or so chapters to the next big piece of action I had plotted out. After writing what bits I could at my secondary office (the local coffeeshop) yesterday, I came home to an empty house. Emily had taken the kids out to visit her dad. After I finished up my freelance work for the day, I set about tackling the tricky chapters I was facing.
I did this by shutting the computer off, plugging my headphones into my iPhone, and laying down on the floor for half an hour.
My goal was not to sit and actively think about the next four chapters, but to just lay there and not think about the chapters and let my mind wander and free associate.
Eventually the back brain began to return to the issue of what the next few chapters could be like. Ideas bubbled up, and I just daydreamed and kept daydreaming until I began to come up with some ideas that just plain psyched me up.
After that I began to mull the ideas, critique them, consider them from various angles, which created a second round of good ideas, until I felt that ‘aha’ moment come where I knew I’d found a really nifty way to move my character along to the next mile marker in the book. It involved tossing out some bits that I’d thought would happen, and changed some dynamics, but it was cool.
I’ve been reading a lot of neurophysiology books of late, about the nature of creativity and productivity. I’ve started to actively try to create more and more moments in my life to allow creativity. One is to only work on a project when I’m excited to do so: structured play. To prevent boredom, I rotate several projects in and out, and let my hindbrain cook a project while its out of rotation. I’ve been setting aside time to read every night, regarding it as important creativity seeding time. No matter what, I will read. I’ve been breaking out my legos three times a week and building random structures, just for fun. There’s been no ‘point’ to it, it’s to occupy my brain and let it have fun. I’ve taken walks whenever hung up on plot points.
As a result, even though I have less energy and physical strength than I did when I first left to freelance due to my recovery from health issues, I’ve been strangely energized and enjoying the day to day work of being a writer. The moment is fun. It’s a lot more play than work.
And I’ve been productive without burning myself out. In the last ten months I’ve written a novel, three novelettes, two short stories, half of Arctic Rising, and a whole book about writing (Just A Draft, my agent is currently looking it over while we decide what we should do with it, which is why online posting of it is currently paused). It’s not as productive as other people can be, but it’s been a very good pace for me, particularly since I’ve fit this around a bunch of freelance work over the last year.
Yet, on many days, from the outside, I look like a lazy dilettante, ending work early because its frustrating, and working on something else merely because it is more fun. Going for walks because I’m bored. Playing with children’s toys.
But as I’m learning from books, the idea that you should throw yourself against the wall over and over again is, as far as what scientists are learning about creativity, will net results, just not good ones. And for me, with a strong blue collar work ethic, its been hard over the last year to grapple with this concept.
Play more to be more creative. To be more productive.
Sounds crazy. But I can’t deny the results.