For me, one challenge as a writer is getting into the creative headspace when it’s actually time to write. Before writing became my full-time job, I wrote in the evenings. It was a challenge to let go of the day’s work and slip into creative mode. I’m not talking about carving out writing time, although that can be a challenge too and is certainly a worthy discussion for another article. In fact, here’s a helpful post on developing those good habits: Kick Start Good Writing Habits. Instead, I’m talking about making the switch from your other life roles into the role of an artist.
If I want to complete a project, I can’t wait for the muse to strike. I have to write during the time I’ve earmarked. That doesn’t mean I feel particularly inspired in the moment. Even now, when writing is my day job and I have a great deal of control over my time, I still have to switch out of business mode or mom mode or research mode, into creative mode. It isn’t always easy, but I’ve come up with a few tips to share.
Use a ritual to help make the transition.
If I’ve been in the middle of creating a marketing plan or I’ve had my head down in research to complete an article on deadline, and it’s time to switch to working on my new novel draft, I need a way to clear my head. Generally, I make a cup of tea and sit outside on my porch for a few minutes. I try to let go of the busy work and any other distractions while I breathe in the fresh air. Sometimes, I plan my workout in the middle of the day. This provides a good transition from one kind of work to another.
Maybe you could take a fifteen-minute walk, or plug in your headphones and listen to some music while folding a load of laundry. Or maybe you can use your commute to decompress and start thinking about your characters. Whatever the case, some kind of repeated ritual to help you make the transition into a creative space will help.
Change spaces when it’s time to write.
If I’ve spent the morning doing busy work at the kitchen table, I’ll pack up and head to the coffee shop to start my creative writing. Or, if it’s a nice day, I’ll drag my computer out to the front porch or the back deck. A change of scenery often changes my mindset.
Some people have a dedicated space – an office, a spot at a café, a seat on the train during the afternoon commute, which signifies it’s time to write. I personally like to change up the places I work, and it’s the change itself that tells my brain to switch gears.
Know where you’re going next.
The single most important thing I can do that will allow me to dive into my writing when it’s time is to know what I want to write next. I’ll take the last few minutes of my scheduled writing time and plan the next scene. If I know where I’m going with my story, I’ll think about it subconsciously and develop the scene in my mind even when I’m not actively working on it. I’ll look forward to diving back in as soon as I have a chance, and with much more efficiency.
Switching gears from our work life to our creative life isn’t always seamless, but we need to maximize our allotted time. When it’s time to write, having a few tricks to get into the right headspace can make all the difference.