Fencing Your Creative Space

Fence, Lattice, Trumpet Vine

This last week or so, I’ve had a lot of challenges getting into my writing zone – none of which have anything to do with whether or not I like what I’m writing (I do) or whether I have a sense for where the story needs to go next.  (I know that, too.  Blind Seer has stopped complaining and is eager to start running.)

The national political scene has certainly been full of distractions, both breaking news and then considering the implications of various developments.

On a more personal level, Jim’s mom was in the hospital for a week.  I’ve known her for over twenty years.  In violation of all the stereotypes about the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, I honestly like her.  As of this writing, she’s home again, but this is only the beginning.

We have three pets with health issues.  A good part of my day is spent dealing with these.

One of the trials of being a writer is that the “What if” that makes me a storyteller doesn’t politely restrict itself to whatever fictional project or projects I’m working on.  It immediately grabs hold of any unfinished story and starts working on it.

This impulse is very well-illustrated in my short story “Unexpected Flowers,” which was just published in the May/June issue of Asimov’s Magazine.

Basically, then, the more stressful things that are happening, the more my subconscious starts spinning stories, most of which are not the ones I’d prefer to be writing.  Sometimes these stress-generated stories create a barrier that slows down my ability to my reach my writing zone and produce fiction.

So, is this my way of confessing that I failed to write last week?  That Firekeeper and Blind Seer remain stalled on their latest journey?

Actually, not.  I had a very productive week’s writing – not just in the sense of word count (although that was more than satisfactory), but in how the next part of the story is taking shape.

So, how did I get around the stress and find my writing zone?

I think that the most important thing was reminding myself that I’m writing because I want to write, and that I want to finish the stories so I can share them with other people.  When writing is your job, rather than your hobby, it’s easy to start classifying it as yet another stress.  Modern American culture is tends to deem “work” as something you do because you must.  That view is reflected in song lyrics.  (“Everybody’s working for the weekend.”)  It’s in acronyms like TGIF.

And believe me, being a full-time writer is a lot of work.  I don’t get any time off, not even when I’m asleep.

But another technique for managing involves fencing off stress.  This means if the national news is dragging me down, I make sure I’ve written before I start reading articles.    That means reminding myself that worrying won’t keep my mother-in-law out of the hospital.  It means getting various medications into various ornery animals, and then forgetting that I need to do it all over again later on.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” said Robert Frost in his much-quoted poem.  Good mental fences give a writer a route to the zone where the stories happen.  Now, after an appointment or two, I’ll be writing again.  Catch you later!

 

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7 Responses to “Fencing Your Creative Space”

  1. Jim Zimmerman Says:

    Those are the kind of distractions that led me to being away from illustration for about 20 years. I find it easier to handle the life-stresses when I stay committed to my creative work. I

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    Best wishes for continued recovery for your mother-in-law!
    I’d advise everyone to take the news in small doses. It’s seriously bad for blood pressure and mental health.

  3. CBI Says:

    Well I understand sick parents. Give Jim and yourself extra hugs from both of us. Your in my prayers.

  4. Louis Robinson Says:

    “Good fences make good neighbors”… Just in case you haven’t seen today’s Pardon My Planet: comicskingdom.com/pardon-my-planet/2018-06-27

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