Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Radical Writing Advice: Step Away From the Computer

Sometimes we sit at the keyboard, waiting for inspiration or the perfect word. Or any word. Or we gaze at the unfilled paper on the desk, tapping the eraser of the pencil or the clicker end of the pen, hesitant to make a mark until we know it's work the ink and piece of tree.

Or maybe, sometimes, we try reworking the story or the page or the sentence over and over. And over. Until we get it just right except we pass the point of knowing what "just right" looks like. Then, next thing we know, it's 5:30 AM and the sky is lightening and birds are singing in the tree outside the window over the fireplace. Or whatever your particular brand of hanging in there a little too long may be. Perhaps it's passed out on the sofa with the laptop's battery running dry next to the now empty bottle of wine; and you're alone. Or maybe you're in bed dreaming of characters who are now zombies who have invaded your home and you bury deeper in the covers to avoid being consumed in their quest for satisfaction.

Yes, we must write to be writers. (Although I did read something a while ago which questioned the idea of writing being a requirement of being a writer. Hm.) But sometimes we have to not write.

Sometimes we need to get outside. To get out of our writing environment, leave the desk and the words and the projects behind. Step out.

I do mean literally to step out. Go outside. Explore your city. Maybe take a bus to downtown if you're not a frequenter of the area. Or ride a bicycle to the inner city lake with a bike path. If having a target destination helps, pick one. It can be familiar or new - it doesn't really matter. The point is to move and to immerse yourself in life outside of the writing womb.

I won't even mention the health benefits of taking an urban walkabout. We've heard about that many times and we now that a lot of sitting should be balanced with a lot of movement. Keep the circulation going, blood pumping, lungs breathing; all of that. Look anywhere and you can see information about how moving your body will benefit you.

But what I'm talking about is moving the energy around and getting away from the writing place. And being present. Mindfulness if you will; maybe I'll talk about that in an upcoming post. But for now I'm talking about noticing. Not walking head down and avoiding people and surroundings. But looking, noticing, seeing what is there. Being present in the world.

Which is why I say it can be beneficial and even enjoyable to try something new. Or something you haven't done in a long time if "new"makes you nervous.

Get out. Look. Listen. Smell. Feel.


In the world. Be. A writer. A writer in the form of a person who is not writing at the moment but is just living.


A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across this video. An illustrator talking about finding inspiration. In the world. Outside of the studio and house.

Watch and consider.

Where would you like to go explore?

In this episode of Epiphany, Maira Kalman, illustrator,  finds inspiration while walking the city streets and veering off the prescribed path.