Interesting, isn’t it, how we all tend to think in terms of stereotypes? But stereotypes can be ever so deceiving.
Today I had a follow-up visit with my doctor. It was fairly routine except that prior to seeing him, a new practitioner came in to do the initial screening. She reviewed all my vitals and asked all the normal questions about how I felt. I mentioned that in the past two days I’d been awake almost all night and didn’t get to sleep until about 6:00am while before that I’d been sleeping almost all the time. The conversation we had from there was really quite an eye-opener.
I mentioned that actually working through the night wasn’t terribly unusual for me.
She asked, Are you retired or are you employed?
“Statistically, I suppose I’m retired but I don’t accept that category. I am self-employed,” I responded.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a writer, editor and webmaster,” I responded without thinking.
“Oh, that explains it,” she said. “You’re a typical writer. Whenever I think of a writer I see someone working in the middle of the night at a desk with a lamp, pen in hand.”
I laughed. “Why do you say that? Am I that transparent?
“Well, yes, I guess then I am pretty much the typical writer. The difference is that I pound a keyboard rather than writing with a pen. But, I also learned a long time ago that, when I finally got my children and spouse to sleep I had a perfect uninterrupted time to work.”
We both had a good laugh and proceeded with the appointment.
Later I recalled that conversation and started analyzing my personal work patterns. When do I write? The answer, I discovered is: every minute of my life.
There have been times, when I’ve been given an assignment, did a bit of research and set the project aside for 4-5 days.
(This confused people to no end:
At first they’d ask, “What? I thought you had a job to do.”
“Yes, of course, it will be done right on schedule,” I’d respond.
Usually those projects seemed to flow relatively quickly and effortlessly because
I allowed the thoughts to germinate and take form on their own.
…Eventually, they stopped asking.)
Other times, I may sit down and start writing. I might do the traditional act of putting words on paper working feverishly for 15 minutes – or for hours on end, allowing nothing to interfere with the “flow”, losing all track of time. Times like that, I eventually come to a point when I felt a natural time to stop. Then I set my work aside and go on to other activities, talking to a neighbor, doing some needlework, reading a novel, washing the dishes…vacuuming the living room…cleaning out a closet… taking a nap Or, I’ll take myself and my camera out for a walk. It doesn’t matter the activity, the goal was to get away from the keyboard and clear my head so I can go back and tackle what I’m working on with fresh eyes. Those times away from the keyboard allow my subconscious to work it’s own unique magic…a step I find essential to the finished product.
Then it’s back again to the keyboard, perhaps to read what I’ve written, check the spelling and the logic. Sometimes, I delete the entire day’s work and I start all over again; sometimes, I send it one its way.
That’s my personal rhythm. I frequently lose track of the march of time as day merges into night and night into day.
Other writers may work differently. I’m sure there are still writers who do use pen and paper. I’m sure that there’s writers who work at specified times of the day, say 9am-5pm. I work best when I feel somewhat close to nature, windows and curtains all open, birds singing outside. Others may prefer to work in a dark attic. I’ve been told that helps a creative mind to focus.
One internet marketer says, “Writing is the doing part of thinking.” Actually, that’s a pretty accurate definition. Writing enables us to clarify our thinking and challenges us to examine what we believe and have written. It helps us put bones and skin on our thoughts.
This is why it’s so difficult to rely on stereotypes to understand people and their work. A writer writes. We understand what they’re doing when we see them creating words on a screen or on a piece of paper. But we can’t see the creative process that it takes to get to that point. And we frequently forget that a huge part of writing is going back to what’s already been done, editing, proofreading, polishing and shaping the words so that they do a proper job of conveying ideas.
This is why businesses have such a difficult time trying to manage creative pursuits like writing. How do you, after all explain the work that’s done while driving the car or cleaning house or visiting with a neighbor? And yet, frequently those are precisely the times when manuscripts spring to life.
If you want to be a writer. find your own personal rhythm. Just be prepared to discard the stereotypical image.