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reset button

Reset and refresh before writing in the evening.

I’ve heard some writers complain (and I’ve been one of them) that after a day at work they find it almost impossible to write. In particular, I’ve heard writers like me–those who hold down day jobs as writers and editors–lament that after a day of writing or editing, the last thing they want to do is write or edit! Common advice on the matter says, “Write in the morning, before your day starts. Give your writing first priority.” That’s fine if you’re an unusually early riser or if you have no other activities or obligations in the morning. However, I think I’ve hit on something some writers might find useful.

A few years ago on a golf trip, I had an interesting experience having to do with “hitting the internal reset button.” My wife and I teed off about about eight o’clock in the morning. Not exactly out of sorts, I wasn’t quite myself, either. To make matters worse, we teed off behind a group whose pace of play was painfully slow. As my frustration grew, I began hitting the ball all over the lot, my score soared, and I became miserable. My mind just wasn’t in the game.

I started employing my reset-button trick. After work, I take time to reconnect with my wife over dinner. Then I retreat for a nap of anywhere from a half-hour to an hour. I don’t think it’s important to actually sleep, but it is important to close your eyes and work on emptying your mind. After that, I make a cup of herbal tea or grab a soda, then go to my office to work on my book.

When we made the turn after our first nine holes, I said to my wife, “I really want to play today–and it’s our last day here–but I don’t think I can go on like this.” After taking a minute to consider our options, I suggested we check with the management in the clubhouse to see if we could get a credit for the nine holes we didn’t play and reschedule an 18-hole round for the early that afternoon. The kind man in the pro shop was happy to oblige.

We then went back to our place. This is when I hit on the idea of completely starting my day over: I changed back into my pajamas, got back into bed, and set the alarm for noon (it was then about 10:30). When the alarm went off, I restarted my day as if it had just begun. I even showered again! Then we went back to the course and I proceeded to play my best round of the trip–I shot in the mid-70s and capped the round off with a 50-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

I’m not sure what possessed me to try hitting my personal reset button, but I’m glad I did. I’ve come to find that taking the time to reset myself–even if not to the extreme illustrated in my example–is often an important key to getting things done, particularly when it comes to my writing.

Because I frequently write in the evening, I’ve found that the psychic baggage of the day has often interfered with my imagination and the creative process: I find my head crammed with the work day, my energy low, my motivation weak. To get past these obstacles, I started employing my reset-button trick. After work, I take time to reconnect with my wife over dinner. Then I retreat for a nap of anywhere from a half-hour to an hour. I don’t think it’s important to actually sleep, but it is important to close your eyes and work on emptying your mind. After that, I make a cup of herbal tea or grab a soda, then go to my office to work on my book.

I find this reset ritual quite effective at emptying my mind of the day’s cares and events. It seems to put me in the proper frame of mind for writing, one in which my mind is receptive and fertile. My goal is one page, but more often than not I’ll produce two or more. And I’ve actually found that once I get going I have to force myself to quit before it gets too late! No matter: when I finish in the middle of a passage, it’s that much easier to pick up the next day.

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