The way I figure it, a writer should always be learning. Not just about what cyanide concentration will kill an adult male of average height and weights, or how nuclear cooling rods are supposed to work, or the economic fallout of tulip futures trading in Dutch Golden Age. Those things are all very useful to know, depending on what genre you are writing in and/or whether the power plant you are currently standing in is about to go into meltdown.
What I’m particularly referring to is learning how the writing process works. What enhances creativity? What boosts productivity? What makes a writer want to sit down at a desk for hours at a stretch and produce reams of prose about some made-up, never-existed people, places and times?
Conversely, what things stand in the way of those bursts of productivity? What derails our attempts to build good habits, to instill self-discipline and train our minds to gleaming points of focus?
After several weeks of careful observation and empirical measurements, I can state with some confidence that bathroom renovations are a complete drag.
A protracted renovation, like Macbeth, doth murder sleep.
We’ve had tradies in this month, doing the bathroom, the office and bits of the kitchen.
Apart from the expected disruptions – no baths for the kids, heavy traffic through the cramped downstairs bathroom, the heightened presence of sawdust in the house and the banging and smashing noises native to the building process – renovating is also a massive distraction from writing.
I’ve spent the last three weeks shifting furniture, unpacking bookcases, culling old belongings and assembling new ones, dumping trailer-loads of junk, and now prepping and painting various walls. (And cleaning paint brushes in Canberra’s grim winter climes is exactly as delightful as you’re probably imagining).
I do most of my writing at night. Just lately, 9 pm has been less prime writing time and more of a static fog from which neither light nor memory escapes.
Needless to say the work I’ve been doing falls somewhere short of expectations.
My best solution has been to snatch ten minutes here or a half-hour there to scribble notes – dialogue exchanges, plot points, and sketchy outlines. What I’ve written under these circumstances is mostly too vague and disconnected from my usual process to be useful.
But regular attention has helped keep the processors ticking in the background. When I do get to sit down with a clear head, I’ve had a pretty good idea of what to write. Most days, that’s enough.
What about you? Any tips for working through a broken routine would be very useful. I’ll still be painting walls for a couple more weeks.