Getting Ready to Write
Part Three of The Care and Feeding of Your Creative Spirit
In the fourth edition of my book, “How To Write A Hit Song”, there is a popular chapter on the antics we writers put ourselves through before we’re able to put pen to paper.
Whether you know it or not, each of us has a peculiar pattern of preparing to write, and if you recognize that pattern, you’ll see you’re making creative progress even when your page is blank and you feel you’re irreparably stuck with no choice but to hop a cab back to rehab.
I used to be inconsolably cranky and upset with myself for not being able to just start writing – period. Hey – what was the big deal? Then I actually made a list of everything – I mean everything - I did before one of my writing sessions finally started.
This really happened. I had to do the following things first:
l. Plug in my Thermaphore moist heating pad and place it on my ruffled couch at precisely the right angle.
2. Arrange the pillows on the couch behind my head and back just so.
3. Jump up to get my thesaurus and rhyming dictionary, which have yet to be opened. I just feel better knowing they’re close by.
4. Lie back down, only to get immediately up again, because how could I write anything, even a check, without a cup of hot peppermint tea?
5. Lie back down, tea in hand, rearrange the pillows, just so, then jump right up again to find something delicious I’d hidden somewhere I wouldn’t remember to dunk into my tea.
6. Lie back down, finish the tea, plus most of the animal crackers, then need a second cup, in a clean mug, without giraffe parts floating in it.
7. Initiate the hunt for my mp3 player.
8. Unearth it in less than 29 minutes, a world record, search through it for the new song I’m working on, finish my tea, again, rearrange the pillows and adjust the setting on my Thermaphore.
9. Decide I like my other mp3 player better and dig for it under the Buddha Balm in my yoga bag.
10. Lie back down on the ruffled couch with my other mp3 player, get the pillows just right, again, my Thermaphore cranked, then realize the reason I’m not writing is I can’t possibly create a comma without my title book.
11. Conduct a hard target search for the aforementioned tome, finding it doubling as a coaster for some “ooh” purple tulips from what’s-his-name.
12. Lie back down with my title book, hot tea, just right pillows, turn on the Thermaphore, feeling completely comfortable and cozy, but missing my lucky pen.
13. I untangle myself from the Thermaphore cord, place the thesaurus and rhyming dictionary on the adjacent coffee table where they can’t get lost, when my Mont Blanc with the fine black point falls out of the notebook where I’d deliberately put it the day before so I wouldn’t go ballistic hunting for it yet again.
14. Lie back down with my lucky pen, notebook, mp3 player, hot tea, Thermaphore, but absolutely no lavender socks.
15. Wearing that new, fluffy footwear, and enjoying the symmetry of how perfectly it matches my sweater, I happily walk back to my nest in the couch, going completely pale remembering a ten-cent off coupon for peppermint tea that’s due to expire momentarily, and I plow through the monsoon on State Street to redeem the soon-to-expire offering at Gelson’s Market, which, God help us, is still under renovation, and partially under water.
Waiting at the checkout stand, I start to write my song with lipstick on the jumbo egg carton in the shopping basket full of pink twins behind me.
I used to think that going through each of those ridiculous steps meant that I had ADD and/or would never compose anything again, that I couldn’t come up with a an original thought anyway, and constantly beat myself up for wasting yet another day of my life doing absolutely nothing of value except carefully separating the lions from the cougars in my little red cookie box. What I didn’t realize until later was that all of those distractions were really part of my warm-up process. I needed to go through each of them before I was comfortable and fortified enough to take the risk of digging for something new to say and sing.
Even now, I often notice myself washing dishes before I start to write. There’s a very nice dishwasher with the sticker still on it in my kitchen, so what’s the story here? Well, the warm soapy water feels good. It’s sensuous, and at the same time, safe, because hey – aren’t I president of the spoons?
Feeling the momentum of actually completing some kind of a task, even if it’s only lining up my eye shadow in alphabetical order, I am prepared to take charge of the thoughts, words and notes hoping to be heard in my heart today.
I bet your warm-up process is similar to mine, possibly with more of Nabisco’s monkeys, and a lower setting on your heating pad.