Mulling it Over

Dear Readers:

Over the past several years I’ve read oooogobbies of writers’ magazines offering advice about fine tuning my writing skills. They cover all sorts of topics – from achieving painless editing, staying motivated in the face of criticism and rejection, to venturing into the social media world – you name it and there’s an article about it. Magazine editors appear to use a favorite device, the famous author interview, to help us fledglings grasp the lowdown on what makes for a successful (aka published) author. Often the first question to the famous author is how do they lock in the sufficient writing time to be productive? Mind you, some of these celebrities are pumping out two novels per year and throwing in a novella or two and several magazine articles to top it off. So they’re not procrastinators. Some say getting one’s butt in the chair and simply putting in keyboard time is the answer. Others set a daily limit on how many words they need to paste together before calling it a day. And a favorite technique seems to be rising early (before their household awakens or they have to leave for that day job) in order to have quiet time to compose. I am just the opposite. I am an early riser – always have been – always will be. But I’m busy doing first things first: feeding the cat, starting breakfast, watering the patio plants. You see,  I lead a very regimented life. I thrive on routine and schedules and to-do lists. I need to check off things on my list that I have accomplished before my brain cells can focus on creativity. I’ve learned to turn these mundane, sometimes mind-numbing, daily tasks into thinking opportunities. While I’m unloading the dish washer, I can flesh out the quirky character needed for chapter twelve, scene two. Or vacuuming up kitty litter from the Persian rug may fill me with inspiration that resolves the dilemma my protagonist faces. Folding laundry might remind me of that ellusive connection between my villain and his murky past that makes him a more sympathetic character. My absolute most productive thinking time is the hour I spend exercising. Sit ups, Nordic Tracking, and stretching doesn’t require much of attention.  I’ve found these moments of mulling to be my best source of inspiration. I need to twist, turn, and examine an idea from various angles before making a decision. And I know I have only so many creative words hidden in my brain. My daily allotment is limited so I need to let things percolate through the routine tasks. Then when I sit at my desk after my checklist of the morning’s tasks is complete, I can devote myself to my make-believe world with no guilt pangs hovering about the real life necessities not done. The plot thickens.

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