Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Working routine

It’s really interesting hearing about how we all tidy up and put things away and, sometimes, rearrange the furniture, files, Ikea boxes before we start new projects. It makes sense: rearranging old things in a new way, creating order out of chaos – that’s what we do when we paint or write.

One thing we haven’t talked about is very much on my mind right now: having a stable environment and a regular routine. I, at least, get my best work done when the rest of my life is in order – that enables me to concentrate. A regular routine helps, too: I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because ideas are shy (or lazy?) and think – well, why should I show up if you’re not going to be there writing me down?

So during the idea phase of a project, I spend a lot of time alone, just sort of hanging around waiting. It’s as if I have a net and am quietly waiting for the ideas to come; I’m alone and quiet because when they do, I want to be sure I’m there to catch them. It really is a lot like fishing with a net (not that I've ever done that but I can imagine it!) – a lot of waiting, a lot of patience, a combination of beign relaxed and being alert and then – there they are and it’s easy. You just scoop them up and pop them into the bag. But you can’t hurry them, you have to trust the process and not scare them away with sudden movements or fear or anxiety.

Later, of course, it’s different: once the first draft is done I can exert a lot more control, and THEN, how much I get done depends on how hard I work. But at this phase, all I can do is show up and wait for the REAL ideas, not be satisfied with empty words or tricked by easy answers.

I’m almost done with the first draft of this novel (just two more chapters of ideas to catch!) and now my landlord tells me that he’s not going to lower the rent in December as promised. I’ve never liked this place that much anyway – and so I’ve decided to just leave. I am hoping to find something super-sunny (this place is really dark), private (this place has HORRIBLE neighbors on both sides – I’ve never lived in that sort of neighborhood before), and warm (this is an uninsulated summer cottage). This new place will either have no rent (I’ll housesit) or very low rent.

I am going to try to keep fishing and get the first draft done before I start packing. If I can’t, I’ll move sooner….but just having blabbed this out has lessened the worry of it all. In a way there is not that much worry: there’s an inn down the road with an empty room – the furniture is hideous (not sure how much this would bother me, maybe a lot? I have been known to have to hide ugly paintings and knickknacks under the bed when staying in the kind of hotel I can usually afford) but the rent is low and the view is great. It might be a good place to fish and maybe while I’m there I’ll find the perfect work space.


Anonymous said...


I know you described being alone waiting with a net for the ideas, but can you describe your process any further? What are you doing while you wait? Fingers posed over keyboard? Sitting quietly in a chair with a notebook? Walking?

When I am looking for ideas for illustrations, I often look at fine art or photography, (books or a visit to a museum) oftentimes a composition I see will trigger ideas for a new solution to a problem.

You must carry a light load with you when you move about. Wonder what your next nest will be. I hope it is a perfect fit!


Libby Koponen said...

THanks KT! I made a new post in response.