The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Seventh Commandment of Writing

"Thou shalt create a daily ritual."

Human beings are creatures of habit, and this is not necessarily a bad thing.  No, not at all.  You don’t figure out a new way to tie your shoes every day, do you?  No…that would be a waste of your time and energy.

You need every scrap, every bit, every jot and tiddle of your energy, creativity, and forward momentum to drive your career forward. Waste energy, and you will become creatively fatigued.  And fatigue, as the man said, makes cowards of us all.  Become a creative coward, and instead of digging deeper into your private reserve of hopes, dreams, and fears, you will simply try to do what the market demands…and end up “behind the curve” every time.  No.  The people who succeed are those who have learned to synche their private creative spark to the cultural zeitgeist.  And this takes huge commitment to being YOU.

To do this, you must learn to be very very careful with yourself, to “sneak up” on your creativity.  “Softly, softly, catchee monkey” as the saying goes.

One tremendous tool for this is the power of ritual.  Every time you find something that works for you in terms of producing high-quality work, begin to incorporate it into a daily ritual.  This could mean:
1)     a particular type of music played while you work
2)     A particular location in your house for work.
3)     Specific time of day to work.
4)     Specific length of work time.
5)     Meditation or exercise before work.
6)     Watch the news or read before work.

Etc., etc.  My own morning ritual has been pretty consistent for the last few years:
1)     wake up at about 6:45, and meditate.
2)     Make a cup of tea.
3)     As I drink it, check my blog and write my daily writing tip/blog entry
4)     Take my morning “Golden Hour” of exercise and input.  The input is generally one lesson from the Teaching Company (currently, I’m learning about the Vikings.  Skol!)
5)     Shower, and have a light breakfast, generally fruit and a protein drink.
6)     Read one scene of Shakespeare aloud
7)     Survey my day’s work, create 500-1000 words.
8)     Break for lunch
9)     Spend the rest of my work day re-writing or polishing previous work.

This is what works for me.  You need to find what works for you, and once you do, stick with it, modifying only to amuse yourself, or increase efficiency.

Those of you with the LIFEWRITING YEAR LONG could listen to one of the eight Cds while you exercise, or take a page and do the exercises or apply the principles to your work, or a recently enjoyed book or movie. Perfect, and a way to effortlessly integrate the deep, layered principles into your subconscious. 

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