Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Part I: A Space Of Your Own

A long time ago, I believed that I needed a room of my own--a place to think and create, with time and silence blowing around me in wispy sheets. But I quickly learned that I could write anywhere, and under many conditions. I took yellow legal pads to football/baseball/basketball practice. I was the mother in the car, the mother with pencils stuck in her crazy hair. I also wrote in McDonald's and in coffee shops.

In a way, it's like socializing a dog? You know? You take the dog to Kroger and let people pet the dog. You take the dog on errands. And hopefully, the dog will not bite your guests. Or each other (if you have more than one dog.)

A writer isn't like a dog (although I know people who disagree). But it's wise to "socialize" yourself. In the case of the writer, socialization means learning how to write under all kinds of conditions.

That said, most writers write at home. Writing can be messy. It's just easier if you have a spot for your junk. A place to pile your papers, your Thesaurus, your totems, your ink pens.

I write in the corner of a room

..and when I sit down, my mind shifts gears. Because I have come to associate this place with writing. I don't do another blessed thing in this corner. It's just for writing.

While a "space" is important for practical reasons, it's more important to know your interior landscape. When you are working on a blog entry, do you need noise or quiet? How do you react to interruptions? In order to write creatively, what is your bottom line? What disrupts your creative bubble?
My ideal bottom line looks like this:
  • Dogs
  • An empty room
  • Music
  • A fresh pot of coffee
  • No TV
  • No phone calls
  • No major conversations going on (in the same room)
  • No one sneaking up behind me and shaking me--"Hey, did you wash my underwear? Well, I'm out!"
Okay. This is my "in a perfect world" bottom line. But I can't have all of these things. So I must edit this list. What do I really, really need in order to "fall through the page?"

I can work without coffee. I can work if others are watching TV. I can even work if people startle me. But I can't be around talkative people.

Or ringing phones

It's important to define your real bottom line--and shrink it to its lowest denominator. Then try to make it happen. This isn't a piece of cake. Sometimes your bottom line is perfect for you but terrible for others. One time my mother sent the police to my house because I didn't answer the phone. (If you want a mental image of my mother, think of the mother in Terms of Endearment.)

But I digress. When it comes to blocks and bottom lines, you just have to experiment. I've read that Agatha Christie ate apples in the bathtub. The poet, Schiller, kept rotten apples in his desk drawer.

Me, I can't unplug the phone. So I use an IPod to create invisible doors.
I have also used "Playlist" (http://www.playlist.com/, a free music feature for bloggers), too. I just added earphones, and within minutes, I was in my own, little space.

After you've defined your bottom line, you need to think about "must have" tools.

If you are serious about blogging, then you need some type of notebook--a place where you can play with words and ideas.

In the old days, paper was cheap. But the cost is rising all the time. Each time I change the cartridge on my printer, I have to get all Zen and breathe. An excellent, zero cost alternative is to create a private blog--just for your writing.

My I.C. tells me that you are prolly thinking, What??!!She wants me to create another blog? what? Is she out of her head?

Crazy? Mmmhum, yes. But it's a lot cheaper than buying reams of paper and pens. Not only that, it's a lot less messy. You don't have to find a place to stash your papers.
But what about photos and prompts?
Instead of stuffing a 3-ring binder with ideas, you stuff things into the Workshop Blog. Inspirational photos, ideas, notes--all go into the blog.

And you can use the italics and the color feature to your best advantage. (I'll talk about this in detail another time...but let me just say that while italics and colors are distracting for Readers, these "tools" are indispensable for drafts--and for dealing with the Inner Critic).

Whether you create blog-space or not, you still must learn to deal with your inner critic--it's not the bugaboo that I painted it to be. Not really. In fact, it is a necessary part of the creative process....but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Part II, "Taming the Inner Critic," will continue tomorrow.


  1. WOW!, This is invaluable Gollum, thank you so much for sharing all your tips and advice, I need to create a workshop blog ASAP, I would not be without my IPOD or playlist and headphones, my bottom line would be no Telephone ringing but lots of Tea.
    I had to laugh when you said your mother phoned the police when you didnt answer the phone, my mother would have done the same thing!.
    she still forgets the time difference and calls here in the middle of the night, bless her.
    looking forward to Taming the Inner Critic. Kathy.

  2. I have created another blog just for some of my stories. I don't post much anymore ,but I still have it when I want to do another story. Kathy

  3. Good Morning Gollum,

    It's just before 7am here and I'm having my morning coffee 'WITH YOU' before I start the day. Another blog sounds like a good idea to me, now if only I can remember how I started the one I have. :(
    I like peace and quiet when I type, but I find ideas going thru my mind all the time,and I'm tunning people out when they are talking to me. Except when words to a song are there first. Like 'Windmills'...I have that song on a tape by Neil Diamond, singing songs from movies,and it took me weeks to get the song out of my head. And now again, since you posted it, only it's not as bad this time as it was the first time, but I find it gets in the way of my thoughts, so no songs for me. I have many ideas as to where I want to take my characters, but I haven't decided which direction I want to go yet. Guess once this weekend is over and I'm not thinking about turkey, etc., I'll have a clearer vision.
    All I know, at this point, is that, I'd rather be sitting here at the computer writing than doing the things that have to be done. :(
    Have a great Thanksgiving, MAY GOD BLESS YOU and yours.


  4. First you gave us inspiration for decorating. And now for writing! (And with that, so much more!) I LOVE IT!!
    I laughed out loud at the Shirley McLain image! Have a great day! :-)

  5. I enjoy the stories about your mother, God bless her.
    For me I have to have silence in both reading and writing. I just can't concentrate otherwise. A good place to keep writings is on a UBS device and one of these days I'll actually do that. Perhaps that will be my New Year's resolution.
    I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well as all the bloggers and commentators.

  6. There you go, Dear Gollum, being amazng again! Wow, just to write? Who would have thought about all this stuff but you? Well, I can blog with the TV going and music playing, but my Mother is living with us at the moment and she gets jealous of my time spent on the computer! I hate that! She tries to make me feel guilty, but I'm just rebellious enough to say, "Love you, Mother, but this is my life and this is what I do!" You know I have 'only child' syndrome!! lol
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  7. Thank you for your coaching. You are really causing me to think on these things. I have only been blogging for about 3 months - like you mentioned. My blog doesn't really have a great purpose other than I really enjoy it. I want to keep it up but I want to do it well.

  8. I am really enjoying your writing instructions. I had to laugh too at your mom, but I had an even more embarassing thing happen to me when I was living in Germany. My husband and I were stationed in Germany many many years ago, I hate writing letters (I would much rather talk on the phone), but anyway, one day my husband came home from work, a bit ticked off because his commander had contacted him to tell my husband, the RED CROSS had contacted him on behalf of my mom because I had not written to her for awhile. Needless to say, my husband had me getting out a quick letter that day! (blush!)

  9. I really like the fresh, new look. No IC lurking around for you today. I'm getting ready to prepare two Thanksgiving dinners, one tomorrow and another on Sunday. Thank you for these writing tips, for me they are quite timely and invaluable. Enjoy tomorrow ... with family and friends.

  10. I love your new look for winter..very festive.. I'm looking forward to Taming the Inner Critic..all of this is so invaluable.. hummm a workshop blog..A lot cheaper and neater than all the notebooks and pens, and so on!!!~~~ From our home to yours a very Happy Thansgiving..
    p.s.I'm so glad you came for a visit..:-)

  11. Gollum,

    A second Blog is a wonderful idea. You wont have to worry about loosing your work either. Hmmmmmmm... that is something worth thinking about! :)

    Donna Marie

  12. Yum, yum! That photo of the sheets dancing in the wind is out of this world.

    Well, it sure is starting to look a lot like Christmas over here! I better start getting in the swing of things. It just doesn't feel like the Holidays yet and I don't know why. It's not for lack of trying!

    I love your writing corner, it looks like the perfect spot for fantastic tales to weave and spin and dreams to come to fruition!

    Your mother sounds an awful lot like my mother - must be a Southern thing. LOL

    Thanks for visiting my world today, and for your compliment. It means a lot to me.

    Happy, happy Thanksgiving, Ms. Gollum!

    Ps. Wild Turkey. That's what should be next to the book ;)

  13. Have a safe and Blessed Thanksgiving dear friend...hugs and smiles Gloria

  14. I think you're a lot more organized than you let on! lol! That's a good idea, the separate blog for ideas, I'm gonna do it! Thanks Gollum:)

    Happy Thanksgiving~~~~

  15. Hi Gollum, I'm coming up for air from life and cooking and look what I find. You're all Christmassy and fun over here! I read yesterday's blog but I was "in the zone" and didn't comment. Must have been my IC telling me to just keep it to myself.
    You are so computer savvy that I'm speechless with envy. What a great tutorial on what really gets your creative juices flowing. Since my job is such a messy one, that's how I function. But.... I have to completely clean my workroom in between projects. How neurotic is that?
    Hope you have a great Thanksgiving. And I hope you get to have something chocolate. I'm certainly putting it on MY menu. That's my favorite food group!!!

  16. This is so neat finding out how you get the creative juices flowing. It's funny because I don't think I could write (if I could write) in a large, open room without a door to shut. I really like the idea of having that designated area where all you do is write. Keep these great tips coming...I'm finding it all so facinating and intriquing! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Michael!

  17. I do have a corner but I am sure mine isn't nearly pretty as yours;) I can read with just about anything going on if it's got my attention but writing I find I like silence maybe a hint of music in the background but too much talking and I totally lose my train of thought...that's not easy with kids around;) I wish I could be more organized but when it comes to paperwork I have it everywhere! I am so afraid to throw things out! MAybe it's because we have been audited before in the midst of moving and luckily all those papers I saved came in handy;) French

  18. Hey you! It was fun to read about how you use your environment to help you concentrate on your writing. I cannot write (or read blogs for that matter) with music playing unless it's just instrumental.

    Btw... almost done with Mad Girls, and I swear if you kill off one more of the "good" characters I'm gonna kill ya!

    Justine :o )

  19. Great ideas! I write my blog in a corner. I keep saying I'm moving everything up to the studio/guest room. Still need to think about that awhile.

    I started a blog for my photography. That's all it is..photographs, with little or no writing. I don't post there often, though. Creating a private blog, just for writing sounds wonderful.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  20. Love your new holiday festive look.I enjoyed the writing tips and plan to put them to use.
    The writer blog is a great idea!! I loved the story about your mom. I needed a good mom story today. My mom died unexpectedly the day before mothers day. This is my first Thanksgiving without her and I really miss her. I am trying to remember all the laughs she brought to me. we had a wonderful relationship that was fun and crazy, even though we didn't live in the same state.hmmmmm maybe thats the secret to why we got along so well:)
    happy thanksgiving,


  21. Oh Gollum... I love your idea of the private blog...a sort of cyber notebook to keep my ideas in. And I also love the story about your mom calling the police! She must have known my mom...lol! Have a great Thanksgiving...Debbie

  22. ~~~You're too much GG, and I just love you for that!!! ENJOY tomorrow, dear, wonderful, talented and most thoughtful friend! HAPPY HARVEST HOLIDAY! Warmest hugs and as always, many thanks for taking all the tme you do to keep informed, smiling and/or laughing! XOXOXO Linda

  23. The mother in Terms of Endearment? I have one of those too and she lives in Arizon ;)