This Writer’s Murky Mind

I made a mistake this morning. Before I wrote this blog post, I started work on something else – something important (organizing the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, in fact), but now, now I”m having a really hard time pulling my mind back to writing.  It’s swimming with emails to be sent and phone calls to be made. I could – truly – spend all day just recruiting and emailing people about that event.  It’s tempting to do so because, well, it makes me feel good to fight cancer.  It also makes me feel good to do something that has some sort of measurable result – a number of people registered, a number of dollars raised.  In contrast to writing, where nothing is really quantifiable, Relay feels good.

But as important as Relay is, it’s not what I need to be doing first thing in the morning. I need to save my morning mind for writing.  I do my best work that way.

Writing requires a quietness and stillness of thought. I have to be focused in one way, down one path.  Or else, I’m scattered, and it feels like I’m just putting my hand down into murky water to find words.  Nothing feels connected or smooth – just groping.  My eyes squint. So today, I have made my job much harder . . . rather than focus first and let the list of possible things to do wait, I let that list dictate my morning.  Now, I pay.  And so does my writing.  I will have to work all the harder to get back now. But I will get back.  I’ll write by hand a bit and shut down the internet for a while. I”ll sit and stare for a few minutes. . . I’ll find that quiet place again . . . the one that I could have just walked right into first thing.

Some day, I’ll learn.

What about you? What do you have to do to be in the right head space to write? When does that space come most easily? 

  • Jesse Etherton

    Nice post. Makes me think about changing when I write. Thanks.

    Btw when I manage to take myself out of my writing mode just before my deadline I find flipping through non-fiction books I love helps. 48 days to the work you love, Traveler’s Gift or my bible always bring my mind back to my writing space.

    • Andi

      Yes, I love books to help me get thinking . . . sometimes I use books on the craft of writing; sometimes just great pieces of writing themselves. They all give me a little spark to find what is already working around inside me.

  • Aaron

    I’m not an early morning person. However, the mid-morning 9-10, after I have checked email, when the kids are playing, before I have to get ready for work, after the 3rd cup of coffee… this is when I write clearly. Problem is, it’s also the time I start looking for distractions, things to keep me occupied. When I chase a rabbit trail, start a twitter conversation, start the endless refreshing of Facebook… that’s when I loose my simmering words to the murk.

    The other time is late at night, after work. If I come home and but on comfy pants… I’m done for the night. No words seem to come. If however I stay in the cloths for the day, force a line or two to get my mind acquainted with the words, then I can usually write well and go to sleep with the writing pot simmering, so by next morning I am boiling with words.

    Our rhythms are important. When we let other good things get in the way of our priority of writing, well (as you said) the work gets harder.

    Thanks for the reminder to value my words because they too are good. There is time for other things. Words in the right place and time, so the rest of my day has its order.

    • Andi

      Your words are good, Aaron, and they deserve the best time for them . . . Thanks for reading.

  • Jamie Kocur

    I too, have found that my best writing comes first thing, before other things in my day start crowding out the words. I’m still working on making myself disciplined enough to really sit down and write FIRST THING. As long as I have a cup of coffee in hand and some quiet, the words come.

    • Andi

      Yep, Jamie, so hard to make me do it, but I”m trying to be more disciplined. Before I even turn on the lights or check mail, I write. It feels good. Really good.