Saturday, April 4, 2015
Creature of Habit: How Writing Keeps Me From Losing My Mind
I am 100 percent a creature of habit. My brain, with it's ups and downs (and sometimes sideways), gives me enough "spontaneity", To keep myself as grounded and stress free as possible - "as possible" being the key phrase here - I need my routines. I have to leave room for flexibility of course, in case I have a bad cycle and my plan falls to pieces, but there a few key habits that hold me in place, at least as much as anything can.
Of all of my habits, writing has to be the most critical. I write, the old school style with pen and paper, every day, ideally every morning, as early as I can. It's always cursive, in a spiral bound notebook. For whatever reason, that seems as essential as the writing itself.
I began a couple years ago when I read the book The Artist's Way. It suggested exactly this practice - write three pages, long hand, every morning, of whatever you can. You could write "I don't know what to write, this is stupid" for three pages, as long as you did it. I'm a writer by nature, and in the past have been a journal keeper, so it more or less came naturally. Because I can be almost obsessively anal retentive about routine, I stuck with it diligently. Every morning, three pages, come hell or high water. That was about three and a half years ago.
These days, I still try to write each day, in the morning when at all possible. It helps me clear my head of all of the muck that it may have accumulated overnight, which is, I've discovered, a surprising amount. It helps me get out anxieties about the day ahead, or, if I'm feeling imaginative, pulls me into my creative happy place where I can forget stress and cyclothymia and everything else and just be . I've learned to give myself a little slack now. If I have to move my writing to the afternoon or unavoidably miss a day, I don't beat myself up over it - at least not as much, A few months ago, I began writing a novel. I didn't plan on it, I just woke up one day with the opening scene in my mind. It found its way onto my morning pages. Since then, I've been writing it three pages at a time, every morning (sometimes I "cheat" and allow myself to indulge in additional pages). Admittedly, it's not the most efficient way to write a book, but it's what keeps this habit going. If for any reason I don't write for a couple of days, or if I feel my writing time rushed or shallow, I get antsy. Writing is like meditation for me (though I do that separately as well). I get in a "zone" when I'm writing, off in a separate world within my brain, and I sometimes joke that the house could be on fire and I wouldn't notice. Those close to me have learned to respect my writing time - to not bother me unless the house is, in fact, on fire.
So often, my brain is a confusing and painful place. When I need to shed it, I go off and write. I feel it has, at times, literally saved me when I'm about to lose my sh*t and myself. Because I really do feel like there are times I'm going to lose my mind. When I'm writing, the mess evaporates. Even blogging isn't the same. It has to be handwritten, cursive, in a spiral bound notebook and it has been my solace through so many ups and downs. I begun numbering my notebooks when I started this habit several years ago. I'm now on notebook 15. I hope I get to 115.