Tune for a Monday Morning
On learning to bounce



A question today: What gets you to your writing desk or drawing board or rehearsal room or where ever else it is that you create your art? I don't mean on those magical days when everything is flowing so well that a herd of elephants couldn't keep you away...but on all the rest. What gets you into the studio, what overcomes distraction and procrastination, what helps you to put brush to canvas and pencil to page -- even on those days when you're tired, or stale, or fearful, or worried about a dozen other things?

"For me," says Bill Watterson (creator of Calvin and Hobbes), "it's been liberating to put myself in the mind of a fictitious six year-old each day, and rediscover my own curiosity. I've been amazed at how one idea leads to others if I allow my mind to play and wander." 

And for you....?


What gets me to my desk is the knowledge that once I start the writing or the binding or whatever else it is, it will build its own momentum and carry me along. At the worst of times, when the fear or the procrastination really have me in a grip, I can trust that the act of creating itself is what will draw me back into my groove. It really helps to remember at those moments that what I'm doing doesn't have to be good, it just has to happen. Once it happens, the rest will sort itself out.

That's a very good summation, Erzebet - and will help me! Thanks! My own less eloquent mantra is to tramp upstairs office-bound, muttering 'well it won't write itself...'

Thank you for asking ... and for the Calvin comic :-) For me, it's knowing that I'm writing for real. Not just for my own pleasure, or because "it's what I feel born to do" - but writing with the intention of having readers, paying the bills, etc. I'd write anyway, but that's what makes me do the hard work of going beyond the dreamy story or the poem, towards a finished, edited, publishable project.

I'd also agree with Erzebet. It helps alot to know I can write effectively even when I'm uninspired and tired, because the act of creating a story really does have its own momentum.

Dear Terri, that was a thought provoking question indeed! Hmmm, and perfect for today as I sit here procrastinating ;-)

I would say if I stop for a moment and really think it has to be "belief". Belief in oneself.

For me it is believing that I can do this, I can push through. It is the believing that my tricky muse will show her elfin features again. Remembering that I have stood in this very place so many times before, thinking the very same thoughts, holding back.

And Trust. Trusting that if I just give my pen or my paintbrush the chance to touch paper, eventualy the lines will begin to form & take shape. Trusting & remembering that it is only whilst in the act of doing so that we are able to experience again the magic of it all.

Thank you treasure for reminding me to remember ;-) I am off to find my sketch book!

I know that this is my job, my work, and I go to work every day. So once I have had my breakfast, taken my (now vast) array of medications, I sit down in the chair, put my fingers on the keyboard. . .and begin to write. Sometimes what I put down is facile and familiar, sometimes it is brilliantly anarchic, sometimes it is like a depth charge to the soul. But until it gets onto the page, how can I know? How can I do the revisionary work on it that it needs?

No magic. That comes as the blood warms up, as it flows through the veins, sparking imagination which keeps the entire enterprise moving. But really, it is the sitting down and being present that is key.

My husband was, according to his birding friends, a "lucky birder." But he disagreed. "I show up," he said. That to me is the mantra. As a writer I show up. Every day. Every single damn day.


On the bad days, what gets me in my chair is Mario saying, "I want 1,000 words by the time I get home for lunch." And for some reason, that works.

You're welcome! And honestly that's usually what I'm doing on my way to the desk, too. I just pay myself no attention until I get there. :)

In addition to what JaneY so eloquently explained, when the work is extra tough to start, I give myself two choices: sit at the computer for an hour with all other distractions off or do a more odious task (clean the fridge, scrub the toilet, etc.) for an hour with all other distractions turned off. For some reason, this works.

I pay attention to letting go: I leave ego at the door and enter the studio with a white belt mind. This mental exercise has never let me down.

it's just what I do, I wake up at 3am have a coffee, read the favourite inspiring blogs, write a few comments (like this one) to get my brain out of dreamland and the motor skills activated, then move across the room to the drawing board and work 'til about 9 or 10am. Then go out to work as a gardener for a few hours to pay the rent, bills and put food in our bellies. I treasure this special quiet time when the city is asleep and as my partner is a musician quite often he will be just coming home as I am waking up but it works for us. I realized about 5 years ago that if I wanted to get all the dreams things out of my head and into a form I can hold in my hands and share with the world that I had better find an extra 5-6 hours a day and this works for me!

I love that Erzebet, especially when you mentioned procrastination having you in a grip. It's like procrastination has it's own energy and can weigh me down. The next time that happens, I will try to remember your words :)

Thank you all for your ideas, they are helpful and I may put them right by my drawing board. I try to picture myself as Fools Crow said "an empty vessel" so I can get out of my own way. Then I remember Georgia O'Keefe who said she sometimes painted a whole picture just to discover what she created in one corner.

I came late to the party after a long stint at a job and family complications. I did write off and on but
now I have time to behave like a professional fantasist and get the work out. It has been quite a
wonderful trip and I have enormous patience. I have a wonderful mentor, and writing group and since
2006, my Mac which is named Schmendrick and my printer is Molly Grue. The work ethic is so deeply
in me I have my routine, feed cat and go online for messages and news, and then a few other things,
until it is time. I work on a long project for two hours or more, depending and then, through-out the
day, some short stories in progress. I used to let poems come to me anytime but now I do schedule
them, sort of. Prose is like cooking a hearty meal. Poetry is dessert.

Old Picasso Saying: "When inspiration comes, I hope she finds me working."

Since I'm making and selling a lot of things (photos, music, books), I'm kind of lucky. When I get bored with running scales on the spinet, I go to the computer and finish some photos. When I get stuck on a chapter in the novel, I go outside and take pictures and that tends to break the writing vapor lock. But I'd be lying, if I didn't say, that after Mary and Pamela died and I had a shitload of stuff to do (and I was just plain tired,) the writing took a hit. Music and photos were fine but I didn't write in the novel for about a month. That was a mistake. It took me most of December to get back in the groove.

Anyway, just some thoughts. Love you Terri and Howard.

& sometimes when the work is going really badly I just let myself take it way over the top & make it as messy and wild and weird as I possibly can, then tear it up into little tiny pieces, get out a fresh sheet of paper and start all over again. There's something deeply satisfying about being able to do that & it's definitely a big part of the process to allow that!

It's when I remember that worrying about not doing it is way more stressful than just getting on and doing it and far more rewarding than any of the displacement activities that I engage in as 'needing to be done' before I actually get on with any work. (Cos obviously it's world shakingly important that the washing-up be done first!)

"displacement activities" I love that and it's so true.

OOps, sorry. Fools Crow actually said "hollow bone" not empty vessel.

Thank you everyone, I really needed this!

Tonight I finished the art for Izzy's/your Metamorphosis book. I made two block prints (first and last), and I really, really would rather have gone to sleep after the grueling day I had (I'm also sick). I am, frankly, not sure how I made myself get up from the easy chair and relocate to my work table, but once I did it, I put on some music, and once I started carving, things flowed, as I suspected they would. I seem to have no good explanation as to why and how I made myself start working, but making art (and poetry) is so embodied for me... the work flows from some other place rather than the rational brain; and my day job is more or less all brain all the time. Perhaps I really need the embodied making to balance the rest of my life.

The best bit of advice I ever came about concerning this problem (as it applies to writers) was in an article in a SF magazine I once leaved through. Irritatingly I cannot remember the name of the author or the title of the magazine. Basically the advice was that your first draft will only be seen by you so it doesn't matter how messy, bad, incoherent etc it is. The important thing is to finish it and then 'all' you need to do is edit it, perhaps rather heavily.
Which, by the way, is why in the first draft of my longest completed story can be found the words 'f****d if I know' at the end of a chapter when I was stuck on a small, but significant, plot point.

those "displacement activities" keep our house kind of civilized, when else would I get around to doing the washing up or cleaning the windows or gather the giant dust bunnies lurking under the bed!

I am totally late to the party but I love what Katherine Langrish said! Things don't write themselves, do themselves, make themselves-and on the tough days that can be enough to inspire me to trudge through. I also recall my clients. Its very clear to me I am in a service industry-and I want to be of service-and that requires me to show up every day whether I feel like it or not. My clients inspire me to fo the work when nothing else does!

It's wonderful that this quetion comes up just before the beginning of February Album Writing Month, which has adopted Jack London's Motto "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club."

What helps me a lot, especially in times like these where things are rather rough, is that I try as much as possible not to circle around my fears and my failing ability to catch the muse, but to appreciate my context: friends, fans, the people who support me, the people who tell me that they love my music and want more.

And most important of all are my bandmates, who always give me the feeling that we are in this together.

Writing and the visual arts may be a lonelier task at times, but I believe that you, too, have some sort of "artistic environment".

I loved all your contributions! Just what I needed to read tonight! Thank you!

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