Monday, October 18, 2010

Writers can be Likened to Lab Rats

If you want to succeed as a writer, you must treat it like any other job. I'd heard that from so many people, but I couldn't figure out how to make that work when I first began my writing career. I set up a separate room for my writing, with my desk facing a window so I could look outside and enjoy the scenery. I bought a new computer and a widescreen monitor, and big desk with a comfortable chair. I was ready to write!

Nothing made me feel better than sitting at my new desk. I looked at it and smiled. I arranged everything to be neat and pretty. Ah, I would be a professional writer. An author. How could I fail with a setup like this? I began my day by checking emails, answering emails, maybe playing a game of solitaire to warm up. Oh, and then I had to go online and do my banking. Then I needed to put something on Facebook. Oh, yes, time to do a blog. Two hours have passed. I need to check emails and see if there is anything urgent...on, and on it went. When I finally pulled up a blank page to write, I became distracted by things happening outside my window, the urge to check emails or see how many people had visited my website or my blog.

Eventually, I realized I just wasn't going to get any writing accomplished if I didn't change something. So, my solution was to buy a very cheap, no-frills, laptop and removed internet and email capabilities. I put the laptop on a small desk on the opposite side of the room where there is no window. I have a CD player there and I listen to specific music when I write. As long as I'm at the laptop, I write. Nothing else is done in that spot of the room except writing.

Suzanne Brockmann, in a workshop given on October 1, 2010 at the Central Ohio Fiction Writers conference, called this "anchoring." I had never heard of anchoring before. She said it is consciously attaching a response to a known stimulus. Just as we learned in Psychology 101, we are creatures of habit. Remember Pavlov and his dogs? He would ring a bell before feeding the dogs and eventually they began to salivate when they heard the bell. Mice and rats were trained to react to specific stimuli to receive food. Many times we don't realize that we have created the same situations for ourselves as writers.

Now, my brain is now conditioned to write when I fire up my laptop. Suzanne also said we should keep our writing space from being corrupted by outside stimuli. If possible, shut the door when you are going to write. If the phone rings, move away from your writing spot to take the call. If you play music when you are writing, turn it off when you answer the phone. If you are interrupted by your husband or kids, shut off the music, stand up and walk away from the computer. Do not sit back down and turn on the music until the outside stimulus is removed. Eventually, you will have a conditioned response to fire up your creative brain when sitting in your "writing" space.

Even if you don't have an office for writing, you can set up a spot for yourself in a corner of one of your rooms. Use the same rules as stated above. Only sit there when you are writing. Stop and move away when you are interrupted.

I still enjoy my window, my big desk and my super computer and monitor. That's where I write my blogs, do social networking, update my website, pay bills, send and receive emails, and occasionally play a game of solitaire. But, when it's time to write, I move away and go to my not so fancy little corner of the room.

If you haven't yet discovered "anchoring," why not give it a try? You have nothing to lose and a manuscript to gain!

1 comment:

JoAnn said...

Great post! Our home is a bit too tiny to have my own writing space, but the idea of anchoring is a great one. Thanks for sharing~