Friday, August 15, 2008

Mindgames, Part 2: All Work and No Re-creation...

This is the problem: I can get in this mindset, at times, that all things in my life must feed into certain projects and that I'm not allowed to do anything else.

This mindset is prevalent in academe, but other writers can get stuck in it too, and in creative writing it's particularly harmful. If one insists on funneling all of one's energies into existing creative writing projects, and doesn't leave room for both writing and non-writing activities unrelated to those projects, one may be choking off some fabulous project of the future.

So I have several goals meant to stave off this problem and keep myself sane:
  1. Spend time playing in writing. Letting ideas that are unrelated to my major projects come to the forefront is important. I may or may not use them later on, but it's important to allow them to come forward. This time I know I'll be busy with many grad student tasks, but I'm planning to schedule at least a few minutes a couple times per week for stretching writing muscles I'm not otherwise focusing on.

  2. Relational time. Often the writing life involves a lot of time spent alone. This is, I believe, mostly healthy--something worth safeguarding when life gets too busy. But giving up at least some writing time for the sake of relationships and other people's interests helps me from being too selfish about my time and my projects. And, especially since a good chunk of my writing requires a deep understanding of communication and relationships, time with others helps me understand humanity better and deepens my writing in unforeseen ways.

  3. Activities whose application to my writing I can't foresee. Relationships are helpful with this. For instance, I'm learning another language right now--Swahili--because it's my boyfriend's primary language, and I want to be able to talk to him better. Can I foresee how this will help the novels and academic projects I have going? No. But it's stretching my mind, giving me a fresh look at language, and it's bound to surface later on in my creative work in some way that is now mysterious to me...

  4. Sabbaths and non-writing retreats/vacations. As most of those who know me know, not only do I not allow myself to do work on Sundays, I don't let myself feel guilty about not doing work on Sundays. This helps me to have time to readjust anything that's off in my life. I also have learned I need a certain number of quiet monastery weekends and/or active lifestyle vacations in which I'm not expecting myself to do a large amount of writing work. Both Sabbaths and vacations/retreats are there to remind me that producing without ceasing isn't good for anybody, and that, as I'm not Atlas, the world does not entirely depend on my efforts. And yeah, often the things I learn and see during these times pop up later on in my writing.

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