Monday, March 29, 2010

Ninja Writing Mode

Last week, someone who doesn't know me well yet, asked where I'd been for a couple of days as I hadn't spent much time on Twitter and hadn't blogged. I wrote back, telling him that I had gone into Ninja Writing Mode and when I do that I use up all of my 'interesting' in a short period of time.

He asked me to expand a little on Ninja Writing Mode - maybe this is something that is a positive experience in my life.

My immediate response was to negate my activity because I really don't believe anyone should do what I do on purpose. I much prefer to be organized and settle down at 9 am each morning to write. That's what the pundits tell us to do over and over. For most of them, it seems to work. They set their schedule, stick to their schedule and produce page after page of writing - whether good or bad.

I would love to live and work that way. In fact, it is something that I strive towards regularly. But right now this isn't working for me.

I've discovered a lot of things about myself over the last 35+ years (I allow those early years to be discovery of the world - not myself). Here are some things I've learned.

1. If I'm going to do something creative, like writing or designing a graphic project or creating a program, I need to allot myself a four hour minimum time span for the ideas to begin flowing and then get them honed down. The problem is that as I close in on the end of the four hours, if there is something coming up, my mind actually begins processing on the next task and I lose my focus.

2. I can't have chaos in my immediate vicinity. Bills have to be paid, the desktop has to be clear, tasks have to be finished, etc. Once my mind begins to process on an unfinished item, I can't think of anything other than finishing it.

3. I need quiet - maybe even silence. I actually don't listen to music when I'm being creative. Music tends to draw me in and I become part of the creation of music. I sing harmonies, see the note patterns, drum out the rhythms. Music does me no good at that point, my mind is totally distracted.

These three requirements are pretty standard for anyone doing anything creative: uninterrupted time, clear mind and space, quiet.

Since I decided to go on sabbatical awhile ago, I expected that all of these things would become normal parts of my life. I spent 22 years in an intense, fast-paced environment ... heck, an intense, fast-paced life. There were only a few days a year that I felt as if I got quality time given to me in which I could be creative. Most of the time I would wait until Max went to sleep and then go like crazy until 3 or 4 in the morning, only to have to wake up and start my day at 7. After those 22 years, I moved into a different environment that still required me to engage fully with everyone around me every moment of the day. Not a lot of time for individual creativity.

Then, I stopped it all.

I haven't filled my days back up with crazy activity, but I do manage to find distractions that are important to me. When I am in Omaha, I spend time with my family, doing things at church, seeing friends, handling my world. My living space is filled with things that need to be taken care of (I really need a wife) - I can't turn around without finding one more task that should be dealt with before I settle down to work.

So I leave town and head for the cabin where the distractions are at a minimum, phone calls rarely come in, no one is talking to me and the space doesn't actually change when I walk away from it. I get a few short days there, so I know that I need to be as productive as possible.

Enter: Ninja Writing Mode.

I allow myself an hour or so in the morning to reconnect with my electronic world. A lot of my creativity comes from the ideas that I grab while I'm reading blogs, talking to friends, getting input from the world. It might take me awhile to get my head together enough to take a shower and have breakfast, but once all of that is complete, I'm generally ready to go.

The best part of it is, that there are no distractions to taunt me throughout the day. I don't think about a meeting or a social event that I need to get dressed up for. I just write. Once I start the reading and writing, I'm off and I can easily spend 6-8 hours tearing through the next week's writing. If it requires a lot of reading and comprehension, I'll use those hours up with no issue.

I can work like crazy on anything in front of me that doesn't require my mind to wander into unknown spaces to discover new ideas when I'm in the real world. It has never been a problem for me to write papers and do projects that only pull from the surface of my brain with distractions all around me. THAT part of my life is easy to do and blend into the real world. That's what I did for the last 35 years of my life.

But there were those mornings that I woke up and I just knew there was something more my mind wanted to explore and I simply didn't have time to let it run free. I had too much in front of me to handle. I spent too many years shutting down that creative brain.

I like my Ninja Writing Mode. I like exploring ideas and thoughts that I've never before had time to understand.


Rebecca said...

I covet ninja writing mode!!! Lately my life is filled to the brim with business and my creativity is seriously drifting away!!! uggghhh!!!

Dianna said...

Ninja writing mode...I love it! One of these days I'll get there. First I have to graduate from college and finish raising four kids. ;)