This morning, it had been more than two weeks since I put my butt in chair and added to the word counts of either of my works-in-progress. I didn’t feel too great about this. As many, many articles on writing will tell you, writers write! Many insist that real writers write every day. And here I was, not writing. Not only was I not writing, but I wasn’t even opening up the Word documents on my computer to reread the last paragraph I wrote or to stare at that dreaded blinking cursor.
Instead, I used my computer only to check the weather, my email, and to update my Goodreads account (all things I could do on my phone but prefer to do on my laptop. In fact, I’m pretty sure the only Internet-dependent thing I prefer on my phone is Twitter.)
I like using my phone for phone things–like talking to my best friend. And by talking to I mean talking at, because we mostly communicate through the app Voxer and rarely catch each other in real time. And lately, most of my voice messages have been like, “I’m not writing. I’m thinking a lot about writing, but I’m not actually writing. Like, at all.” And “I have so much time now that I’m not writing. I went to the Sunday market, hula-hooped with a stranger for 20 minutes, and then bought the hula-hoop for $40.” Because I thought it would be good to have a hobby that isn’t writing for when I start writing again. Followed by, “I just spent three hours outlining for the eighth rewrite of my novel and everything is horrible.” And, “Never mind. I had the most restless sleep of my life, got out of bed early, and rewrote the outline before work and now everything’s gonna be fine!”
And she puts up with me because she’s a fucking saint.
My best friend also reminded me that mental practice is a thing; she’s a musician, and she says she often plays music in her head, or reads music. I first learned about mental practice in an interpersonal communications class in high school– what I read suggested that the same areas of the brain are activated by mental practice as physical practice.
Of course, I think it’s a little different with writers and writing because there are so many people who go around saying they’ve got a book in ’em and that they just haven’t written it down yet. (Spoiler alert: ideas are the easy part.)
Fortunately for me, I not only had a book in me but also managed to wrestle it down onto paper (well, an electronic Word document). And it’s good! It’s just not great yet.
So my mental practice has mostly been problem-solving:
A lot of, “Is this a darling?” “Yes?” “. . . yes.” “Kill it.”
And a little bit of reading:
Follow me on Goodreads, maybe?
I also think there’s something to be said about distracting myself from writing–by giving myself mental recesses. I’ve found that the most successful way for me to do this is by taking little trips to places, because I’m not very good at hobbies. Having a hobby just makes me feel like I’m half-assing two things (for instance, hula-hooping and writing) instead of whole-assing one thing (writing!), which is a thing Rob Swanson warns us never to do. I honestly don’t think I could ever whole-ass hula-hooping, no matter how rewarding the hip bruises are.
Of course, maybe the point of hobbies isn’t to be good at them. It’s just to do them. Because doing the thing feels better than not doing it.
(I started rewriting today! I’m doing the damn thing.)