“The ‘artistic temperament’ is usually perfectly satisfied to exercise itself in reverie and amuse itself in solitude, and only once in a long while will the impulse to write rise spontaneously to the surface. If you leave it to the more sensitive side of your nature to set the conditions of work and living for you, you may find yourself at the end of your days with very little to show for the gift you were born with. A far better idea is to realize from the start that you are subject to certain caprices of action and to study yourself objectively until you find which of your impulses are sound and which are likely to lead you into the bogs of inertia and silence.” From Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
Becoming a Writer is a favorite handbook of mine. Dorothea is a compassionate, savvy coach who understands well the many pitfalls that writers are likely to fall into and offers calm, cogent advice on how to avoid them.
The one she spotlights here — the tendency we creatives have to dream instead of do — to amuse ourselves idly chasing wisps of ideas without every catching and committing them to paper is one I certainly know well. How about you? Do you find that your mind loves to fantasize but often balks at getting down to work? Do you sometimes find yourself mired in “bogs of inertia and silence”?
If so, then you and I have plenty of company! It’s a malady that many writers suffer from. What to do? What to do?
Dorothea’s solution is simple: Know thyself. “Study yourself objectively” until you discover those habits of mind that tend to be productive and those that aren’t. Once you have a handle on what habits or impulses support your writing life and which ones tend to short-circuit it, you can come up with a plan of action that maximizes your productivity.
Understanding your own personal rhythms is key here. Are your writing sessions more productive early in the day — or, like me, does it take you a while to get your creative juices flowing?
Do you work more happily and effectively if you’ve mapped out a plan of action for accomplishing certain goals — or do you find that picking up the thread of a previous day’s writing and running with it is more fruitful and more energizing?
Does your ability to focus flag after a short time and need to be jumpstarted by taking a break and then returning to your work? Or are you able to concentrate for longer periods, making it essential that you have uninterrupted blocks of time to get your thoughts down on paper?
Knowing how and when you work best can be enormously valuable and, as Dorothea suggests, it’s well worth investigating. Write on!