It took an epic deluge (Minnesota is more rainy and humid than I’d imagined), the sequestering of my son in his ivory tower, and sending my wife to the other side of the country to get the chance to do the one thing I’ve been meaning to do for weeks – sit down and write.
Sure, those are all fancy excuses. If you need to write, you make the time. But there is a reason why so many authors disappear on retreats and run off to little ponds in the woods.
Distraction is the enemy of the creative process. Writing and reading both require solid blocks of time commitment which our lives no longer allow. Some have reacted to this by writing shorter books. Some by communicating in 140 characters or less (though Twitter figured out they had to up that limit, didn’t they? Maybe one clear case where people recently overthrew arbitrary limits set by algorithms and technology in favor of clear communication…)
I recently watched an interview with Chuck Palahniuk where he described his creative process. Using his foundations in journalism, he collects inspiration at parties where he listens to others’ experiences and simultaneously tests his ideas on an audience, measuring their reactions.
He’ll then let this inspiration steep at the gym. Exercise and in particular, walking, have been part of many writers’ processes – mine included. But, if I remember correctly, Chuck’s gym time includes interaction with others as well so much of his writing time is an almost collaborative process. Until the time to put pen to page.
He says he does most of this on airplanes or in the airport when he’s got nothing else to do. I imagine the solitude of the unfamiliar yet uniform setting, surrounded by strangers, lets him focus.
Of course there’s always the chatty guy in the seat next to yours…
His admission though is that at least some parts of the writing process require a degree of solitude. Perhaps collaborations or writing screenplays and scripts is different, but for novels, no matter how collaborative you want to get there’s always the work of putting pen to page or fingers to keyboard and lining up all those thousands of words in nice, complete sentences.
Aside from solitude, I also need a routine to work. Our move has thoroughly tossed that into chaos as well. I’ve mentioned all of this before, maybe multiple times, but I’m bringing it up again because the process is important.
As a society, we seem to have lost patience for process and routine. We’ve tried to reduce every seemingly repeatable task into algorithms and calculations. For efficiency, we’ve abandoned the idea of work and have become increasingly shallow.
Distraction has replaced living. It has become life. Swiping, clicking, liking, bingeing, are how we measure our days.
I don’t say this to sound like a Luddite. I’m all for the rise of technology to improve our lives, I just don’t want it to control them.
And, in short, there’s my inspiration for the next book in the Crimson Son series and Chroma’s solution for all humanities problems. Better get back to it before the rain lets up and I’m tempted to escape.