Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tricks of the Trade

This summer, I’ve found myself with a more packed schedule than usual, so I decided to trust in the principle that the busier you are, the more you get done. NO time for wasting time, and so on.

While one can multi-task errands or cook dinner while doing laundry, catching up on the news via NPR, and conversing with the husband, it’s a little more challenging to call up the creative force on demand. Yet, I really want to finish a draft of my novel by the end of the summer (knowing full well there will be more work ahead). So how to get myself in the writing frame of mind on the rare afternoons I have free to write?

I decided to channel the sense of smell. I bought myself a giant, smelly candle—to fit with summer, I selected cucumber-melon. I light it whenever I’m about to sit down to write. The room fills with cucumber-melon-scent-chemical, and my hope is that my tiny little brain will think, “Hey, the last time I smelled this, I got all creative and had a good afternoon writing. So I think I’ll do it again.”

In case that part of my brain is resistant, I’ve also started listening to the same CD over and over while I’m writing (avoiding it any other time). Anything that works for you would do, but I chose something that seemed to fit the mood of what I’m working on: Philip Glass’s soundtrack to the movie, The Hours. I like the relentlessness of it, and, of course, it never hurts to summon images of Virginia Woolf (or Michael Cunningham). Again, I’m hoping my tiny brain can make the connection: “Relentless, depressing music…time to be creative!”

If things get really desperate, I can throw healthful eating to the wind and go for the Marcel Proust effect.

But so far my strategy has been working for the most part. And even if I’m skating by on the placebo effect, I’ll take it.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.