I've learned over the years that many of the routines that keep me most productive, that nurture my creative spirit, are the ones that don't *look* like I'm writing at all. Sometimes it's difficult to explain exactly how they are a part of my writing process, and how they are necessary to my work. Today, I don't feel like explaining. I'd like to embrace them, celebrate them, and share a few of those routines with you, then invite you to share your own.
As soon as I take those first few steps in the morning, the story thoughts come. Walking is of course beneficial in so many ways -- I started doing long morning walks as stress relief more than 20 years ago when my mother was very ill. Today, along with working out any leftover inner "kinks" or anxieties from the night before, a morning walk almost assures greater productivity when I get my "butt in the chair." I bring a little notebook -- I might jot down a note or two along the way, or just murmur to myself (I can imagine how *that* looks!), I might just walk and enjoy the city silently; no matter what, my brain thinks of it as "work" time, and I might figure out a character's motivation, a few lines of dialogue, or even an entire scene. I can't pretend that I walk and then come home and an entire book just pours itself out like magic, but there is some preliminary real forward movement that happens during that time, and it's important. Sometimes I can't get outside to walk, and I may just exercise at home instead--just some kind of whole-body physical movement helps, though those wonderful walks are the best.
I would describe myself as an enthusiastic, if not particularly skilled or talented crafter. I've always found joy in making things, and I guess it's also always been connected to my literary life in some way--as a child, one of my motivations for learning to do many of the crafty things that I do was the concept of an "accomplished woman" in Jane Austen novels. When I was writing my first novel, I spent a large amount of time knitting, sewing, making toys, and just fooling around with materials. Last year, when I was feeling hopelessly stuck on my WIP, I thought back to those days, and realized that I had given up a lot of those habits because they were "hobbies", and not writing. I know that, when I'm feeling stuck or restless or distracted during the course of a writing period, it's a good idea for me to pick up some knitting, some embroidery, some clay, or even to sit at the piano for a few minutes, and work with it for a few minutes, to refocus and be rejuvenated. Much better than checking my email or doing some online "research." I give myself a time limit, and then give myself permission to fully enjoy whatever it is I'm doing -- to enjoy my work.
Twyla Tharp's THE CREATIVE HABIT is one of my favourites, and I believe that she is absolutely right in stressing how vital the development of a practice is, how important it is to be disciplined in any creative endeavor. I tell my students to "just write", and I know it sounds frustratingly simple. But I remember that for me, "just writing" includes many strategies, tools, techniques, and pleasures. I include these times of physical movement and 'crafting' as a vital part of my work routines. They are inextricably linked, and I'm glad. What routines feed your work as well as your soul?
*Referring to this film.