As some of you know, I've been writing a book during the course of the past year. It's a collection of humorous essays about dealing with illness- and health care. My publisher asked me do a little writing about writing, so I'm sharing this with you all here as well (then maybe I'll sing some of my songs about singing and talk about talking while walking to the treadmill): I write usually when I get up, while my mind is fresh, or late at night, when the whole neighborhood is quiet. Iâ€™m usually teaching guitar lessons in the afternoon. My next-door neighbors have lots of keg parties, so I donâ€™t even bother trying to write on weekend nights. I donâ€™t deal well with noise distractions. Thereâ€™s nothing I can do about that stupid leafblower that shows up every Tuesday for five hours. My husband is far more cooperative. Sometimes when heâ€™s listening to music, I gently offer him a pair of headphones. Or if heâ€™s playing the guitar, I suggest maybe my office upstairs might be more comfortable for him. He always obliges. every couple hours i have to get off the chair before my butt molds into the shape of the chair. i find doing something really mundane, like sweeping the sidewalk, helps me clear my head and even sort out something i might have been stuck on. Julia Cameron (the artistâ€™s way) refers to these kinds of repetitive â€œmindlessâ€ tasks (mowing the lawn, taking a walk, sweeping, taking a shower, washing dishes) as â€œartist brainâ€ activities- they occupy your left brain, the side where the critic lives, enough to allow the right brain to work uninhibited. i donâ€™t like to work in clutter, so sometimes part of my procrastination ritual is cleaning. Just the clutter. I leave the sweeping for later, to placate my right brain. Why arenâ€™t I using my office to write? Too messy. Plus, if I go downstairs to get a snack, I might not remember to come back up. I pushed a couple card tables together in the kitchen and put a big piece of plywood and a tablecloth over them and took it over. Thereâ€™s room for the laptop, the manuscript, my scraps of paper, my pens, liquid paper, and a big glass of green tea. And a couple squares of chocolate. All my projects are chocolate-fueled. My absolute favorite place to write is on an airplane. Youâ€™re trapped and there is nothing else to do. Thatâ€™s a pretty expensive office, so I only write on the plane when Iâ€™m already going on a trip. As far as time goes, I try to take a somewhat disciplined approach to writing. if I only wrote when the muse struck, I wouldnâ€™t get much done. And I find when doing a large project, like a book (as opposed to writing a song or a blog entry), I need to work in one large block of time so I donâ€™t repeat myself. I use my iCal program, and every month I block out writing time for almost every day. Some days itâ€™s just an hour, other days 3-4 hours. As far as planning what Iâ€™m going to say, I have a very undisciplined approach. I try to write from a place of deep honesty, as much honesty as I can muster. I donâ€™t want to sound contrived or academic, or preachy. I still have my papers from high school to remind me Iâ€™m capable of that. So, for that reason, I donâ€™t plan out the book in advance. I like to let it reveal itself to me as I write. I basically splat my feelings all over the page, then try to mold them into something slightly less maniacal later. Sometimes you donâ€™t know what you have to say until you start saying it, so I like to allow myself the chance at the beginning to say anything and everything I need to say. Keep in mind, however, this is my first book, and not only are the reviews not out yet, the book isn't even out yet. So judge for yourself whether this approach to writing is really one you want to follow. It seems to work for songs, but, aside from Freebird, Stairway to Heaven, and American Pie, songs are a lot shorter than books.
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