Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Be Still and Become Productive

I’ve stopped listening to the radio on my drive to and from work. The noise was a distraction, filling my mind with repetitious tunes and everybody’s thoughts but my own. I’ve discovered that in the stillness, competition for head space has dwindled to a minimum, and I’ve created a healthy environment for the development of plot ideas, blog posts, and ways to improve my manuscripts.

These quiet moments are crucial for a writer’s success. Besides the dreamless, Delta levels where our subconscious often inspires us in our sleep, in today’s busy, over-stimulated world we must create special moments where our brains can engage the muse, a place where we can focus on the next passages we are going to write and the crowning ideas that are trying to immerge.

Not all of us have two hours to kill in the car every day like I do, so how do we find ideal places and specific times for productive thinking? I used to ask myself that question all the time, but it wasn’t until I practiced the fine art of being still that I realized how many opportunities I really had during a day. Below are just some of the ways I’ve found to reconnect my synapses. If you try any of these, don’t forget to keep a pad and pencil with you to write down the ideas that begin to flow.

» Create a sanctuary in a remote corner of your house – Decorate a special corner all your own with some of your favorite items that generate peaceful surroundings. A candle, pictures of family, a floral arrangement, or a special pillow can work magic in this haven away from distractions. Put up a partition to keep your attention reigned in on your work. Before long, you’ll wonder how you ever wrote a sentence without this refuge.

» Take a walk outside – Fresh air and exercise are cures for a stagnant existence. Twenty minutes away from your desk can wet your imagination and get you back to writing again.

» Get up an hour earlier – Even a half hour earlier might give you a few moments to jot down some ideas that you can develop later on in the day.

» Use down time at work to brainstorm – Between work projects or during a break, write lists or send yourself Internet data that will help improve your writing sessions when you have more time to develop the information.

» Stay out of the break room at work – The break room is notorious for wasting time. Well-intentioned people want to talk to you when you want to write. Find an empty desk somewhere in the office or park yourself on an outside bench where no one will find you. Your colleagues will begin to respect your desire for alone time.

» Keep a writer’s journal and use it daily – the moment you wake up is a good time to write down ideas. But carry your journal with you and get in the habit of using it whenever you feel inspired.

» Use the time in grocery store lines to observe action and dialogue – We spend half of our life standing in one line or another. Make the most of those wasted moments by writing down someone’s quirks or the dialogue you hear. You never know when a phrase or oddity might come in handy in one of your plots.

» Refrain from watching television, blogging, or listening to the radio for a day – All the vices of networking and the media can be the worst bandits of our time. Listening to repetitive plot ideas and the same music over and over only locks our mind into someone else's patterns of thought. Social networking and video games may exciting and fun, but they do not help us congregate where we most need to be: at our desks writing. Tune out and tune in to your own unique ideas and you'll be producing abundantly before you know it.

The key is to train yourself to find ways to be still. Remember that as we discover more of these moments in our lives, the easier it will be to find them again. And the more productive we are, the more success we will glean as writers.

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