Sunday, May 24, 2009

Daily Rituals and Artful Living

I am lucky to work with a team of driven, dedicated and goal oriented people at Eraserhead Press. A typical "day at the office" is known to frequently involve

a meeting at the brew pub,


a video game competition,


or hanging out with Klingons


We work together in the office and we work separately at home. We work when we go out for drinks or to parties. We work while watching movies and while eating brunch. There is no difference between work and play. We are focused on our goals and are constantly exploring new paths towards obtaining them. The group energy is invigorating. The collective creativity that is at the heart of the Bizarro movement is inspiring and motivating. This group of story tellers is shaping a reality of their own design. A world that supports free-thinking, imagination, and individuality. We believe that there are more people out there that think like we do and we seek to connect to them through the fiction we create.

I just came across this site:
How writers artist and other interesting people organize their day

It has tidbits from all sorts of interesting writers about their daily habits. C.S. Lewis and W.H. Auden's habits were my favorite to read about. I found C.S. Lewis fascinatingly fussy, pragmatic and sociable and W.H. Auden's routine was manipulated with speed and barbiturates. I think it would be interesting to ask about the daily habits of many of the creative people that I work with. I know that I am always examining and tweeking my own routine.

In my opinion, the way to be truly happy about your productivity as an artist is to be able to incorporate your art into your lifestyle in such a way that life becomes art. Living an artful life, the creator is always at work. Art is a beautiful and enjoyable process. Some people think creating things is hard. It is easy, it is natural and it is done constantly every day. It's only the matter of directing your creativity that is difficult to master. That is where habits are helpful and how routine can help tone the creative muscles.

But the flip side of it is the fantasy about what a writer's life is like. I often encounter in new writers the obsessive quality of ritualizing the writing process. The feeling that in order to be a true writer they must go out to a cabin in the woods or that a bottle of wine and candlelight will inspire a great opus. I think the article on the daily routines of writers I mentioned provides some perfect examples to perpetuate that fantasy. Also any movie or book you ever read about authors will always glamorize this aspect of their process. I believe that there is a certain power to ritual, but there are also times when it can become cumbersome to the creative process. Without flexibility there can be no growth. And if you are not growing, you are stagnating. It's never good to get too locked in to thinking that in order to be creative you must be in the perfect environment, or it has to be at a certain time of day, or that you need certain substances to get the juices flowing. All of these things might aid you, but they are not where creativity comes from, nor does the creative process rely upon them.

If you are reading this, I'd like to hear what you think. What are your requirements for creativity and how are they related to your routine?

5 comments:

The Pueschel? said...

You're right about creativity being easy. I also like to say that writing comes easily to me. My biggest problem, the one little thing that hampers me the most is my romantic idea of the "original". The feeling that once I see, hear, or experience in some other way an idea that perhaps I wrote about or jotted down as an idea to develop becomes not good enough because someone else beat me to it. I envy other writers (most especially the Bizarros) who seem in my mind to be free of that particularly nasty ball & chain. For example, I wrote Bill Shatner into my first NaNoWrimo novel as a cameo. Now that Jeff Burk has published (and been deservingly successful with) "Shatnerquake", I feel like I am in some way plagiarizing his work even though I wrote it close to two years before I even heard "Shatner" and "quake" used in the same word. Perhaps this is not so much a ritual as much as a compulsion. Gods, I ramble too much. ;-)

Eraserhead Press said...

@The Pueschel
That's interesting! It certainly can be a challenge to make sure that your idea is new and fresh. Certainly, paying attention to what others have done and are doing is important to do. However, it is also important to cultivate a sense of confidence that no matter what you do it will be unique because YOU are the one doing it. Picasso said "Good artists copy, great artist steal". Don't worry so much about having a unique idea, worry more about what makes it uniquely yours. No one else will ever have quite the same perspective as you or see it in quite the same way. If you are aware that you are not inventing the idea then you can really focus on what particular aspects of the idea inspire you and turn you on. And if you are in competition with others it makes it all the better for really challenging yourself to express your personal vision.

Eguin Lade said...

I'm not sure how I stumbled onto your blog, but I'm glad I did.

For me, writing and creativity are nonstop. I write on my desktop in my library; I write on my laptop in bed; and, I write on my netbook everywhere I go.

For those ideas or fragments of conversation that I hear and don't have time to wait for the netbook to boot up, I have pen and paper at hand constantly so I can go "O/S" (old school).

A rum and coke, a cigarette, and some soft music in the background set the mood for me to write at home. Other than that, I find that the spirit moves me in the strangest places.

Awesome blog. I hope to read more.

Ochani Lele

Kevin Shamel said...

I LOVE what The Pueschel said about originality, especially among Bizarros.

Just coming into the Bizarro scene, I ALREADY feel like a great deal of my ideas are already being written about.

(Seriously, why are we ALL so freakin' drawn to SQUID?!)

Which is fairly typical in the world of writing, but it does seem more pointed in this smaller community within it.

But that's nothing really to do with my process.

Here's MY big fancy writing routine:

Spend most days of the week getting up early and getting kids ready for school. Taking the preschooler to school at 9. I come home, drink more coffee, settle down at the computer, answer emails, fuck around online, read the last few pages of what I wrote, and write some more for about an hour and a half. Or I don't. I take a shower, go get the preschooler, make him lunch, and play. Sometimes my wife comes home on a split shift during the day, if so, I may be able to write a few pages. If not, I don't. When evening comes, I make dinner, eat it, and go up to my office. I fuck around and maybe do some writing, but usually not because I have kids running around, and a wife that wants me to occasionally talk to her and stuff like that. After the kids are in bed, around 9, I might do some writing until around midnight when I fall asleep at the keyboard.

It's so glamorous.

You know, I've NEVER gone off to the mountains specifically to write, or any secluded, writerly place.

I have no set routine. I can't, I have an actual life.

Great question!

eden said...

I love learning about others' processes. It's like getting a sneak peek into how their brains work. Thanks for posting this!

For myself, I've worked hard to break my way out of routines as much as possible, as I tend to get obsessed with the routine rather than the writing. I do like to move around a lot - a different room or a different location often helps a great deal. Also taking a walk when I get stuck on something. The moving around seems to loosen brain knots and ideas will more often than not just pop into my head.

Also, not thinking helps. I've found the more that I can get out of my fucking way and not judge the words as they appear on the page, the better the writing ultimately is.

I hate when writers talk about how crappy the act of writing is, what a cross it is to bear, how it is the burden of genius, whatever. How they "have to" write. Personally, I don't have to write. I could do any number of other occupations, but this is the work I love the most. Isn't that how work should be?