I was having a hard time getting any work done this morning. Part of it was simple distraction. I wanted to install the new GOG Galaxy beta onto my laptop and wasn’t quite sure why it wasn’t detecting all of my games. But even after I’d managed to pull myself away from my home laptop I still found myself having a hard time concentrating.
Sometimes the drive into work can be a good way to focus my thoughts. Though this particular morning I had fog on a dark winding road that required more than my by the numbers attention. So I was twenty minutes late, and had no ability to reflect on what I actually wanted to write that morning, even though it was a scene I’d been playing back in my head for the last week.
But I still had a good hour in which to work. I had caffeine at the ready, and a good cozy environment (after I turned the main office overheads off). But for whatever reason I couldn’t get more than about 600 words done, and after about 45 minutes of fighting my inner censor’s need to delete the whole thing, I packed it in and hoped for a better session in the evening.
The funny thing is, it only occurred to me later what the real problem was. I hadn’t turned on any music.
Music actually has a profound ability in helping me to focus and find a certain mood. I’m not someone who works well in complete silence, as there is never a environment that is truly silent anyway. I’m used to my office in the early mornings, but it still isn’t the most comfortable place, and admittedly I’m more used to the ambient noise of people around me. Sitting in the dark even in my own little cubicle can be a little uncozy.
But music would have fixed that.
There are things we do that help us focus, that put us in the right headspace to work. For some it’s a tidy workspace, and for some it’s the exact opposite. Even though I try to be the kind of writer who can work just about anywhere, the truth is in order to do that I have to do some of the same things every time. Call them rituals, or habits, or comfort security blankets, what have you, but they make work easier, even on days where it’s hard to get anything going.
See this evening I’m not listening to my music, but outside there is rain and there is a soundtrack playing in the Starbucks. My laptop is laying comfortably over my crossed legs as I sit in a comfy chair. The place is nearly as empty as my office (finals must be over for OSU, usually this Starbucks is full of students).
When we’re feeling stressed, when things don’t feel like they’re working, sometimes it’s because we’ve forgotten to do the little things for ourselves that put us in the right frame of mind. You stretch before you exercise, you take a shower after you wake up or before you go to bed, you do vocal exercises before you sing. Whatever activity we need to stretch and we need to feel comfortable before we can really get good work done. Otherwise we are fighting our bodies. Now sometimes we can be really good at “powering through”, but that takes a toll in the long run. Better to take those few minutes to breathe, than to be fighting for air the entire time.
What are your rituals that help put you in the writing frame of mind?