Finding Head Space   Leave a comment

Most indie writers don’t have a lot of time to write. We have to work other jobs to pay the bills, after all. Even when I was a stay-at-home mother, I had this other job that required I change her dirty diapers and feed her.There is never enough time to practice your art. You are forever battling against the many demands life puts on the precious hours in your day,

Ray Bradbury reported that he enjoyed writing amid the chaos of his family and, frankly, I agree with Mr. Bradbury. For a while, my writing cave was a spare bedroom away from the family and, frankly, I didn’t like it. I write in snippets and have a high tolerance for noise, so the living room or the master bedroom where the kids were yelling outside in the hall worked fine for me … and still does.

I honestly don’t know what I would do with 24/7 time to write. I suspect I would waste a great deal of it in other activities. And I would lose connections with the world that I value greatly. My jobs have been a great source of inspiration and research for me over the years.

Someone at the local writer’s guild asked me how I get into the zone for writing when I have distractions that she, being a non-working empty nester whose husband is gone on military deployment does not have. I stared at her, dumbfounded. She’s reading my fantasy series and marveling that I can get into the headspace some writers call “flow”. I’m glad I didn’t really have any answer for her, because I think what I’m about to say now may sound a litlte arrogant to other writers.


Certainly I carve out time where I can surrender all of my attention to the creative task for hours at a time, but more often than not, I am surrendering my attention for minutes. To surrender myself totally to the creative process requires a deliberate throwing of a switch inside my brain, but it is a switch that I have been aware of since high school. It allows me to slip into a state where I am not so much working on my art, but breathing my art. For me, it’s really not that tough to create instantaneous headspace in the midst of a busy day. I pre-write a lot of scenes while doing mundane tasks like reconciling credit card charges for my office. I don’t wait around for a muse to inspire me. The muse is almost always there, taking in my head and it is in that headspace where beautiful things happen. When I put my fingers to the keyboard, I am often just transcribing the story that has already played out in my head.


How do you create headspace? Well, I find it just comes to me when I’m thinking about something else, but I’ve had friends tell me that they think about nothing. That wouldn’t work for me, I don’t think. My brain would distract itself with all the wonderful things there are to think about, so it’s better that I’m thinking about something that doesn’t require a lot of thought. I give myself permission to step outside of my life — to unfocus just slightful from whatever tedious task I have chosen for myself. I allow myself to think someone else’s thoughts, to become someone else.


There is nothing wrong with setting aside time for this if you can manage it, but my life has never arranged itself thusly, so I don’t allow it to dictate my creativity. I take frequent breaks. I switch between stories. I go hiking. There is a natural ebb and flow to creativity. You can’t run the well dry, but you can sap its energy if you push too hard and too long on one particular story. That leads to burn out and I suspect is the source of the writer’s block I’ve never experienced. When I get stuck, feeling uninspired, I switch to another story and work on that for a while. I give myself a break, a momentary step back from my primary project and purposefully go do anything else.

When I get into rewrite, I do set aside time to actually get into deep concentration on the project, to envision scenery and action sequences. Sometimes that feels awkward, so I have to go through the motions, writing one word after another after another, until the creativity starts to flow.

The one thing I never do is allow myself to be freaked out when I feel less than inspired. The characters inside my head will almost always speak to me again in the future — if I’m patient and filing documents, because that is how my writer’s brain works.



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