Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How do you harness your energy?

I recently completed a ten week citizens police academy with the Fairfax County Police Department, something I highly recommend if you have one in your area. During the presentation by the K-9 unit, someone asked how the dogs know when they’re supposed to be working and when it’s okay to play.

According to the officer, when he puts on the dog’s harness he knows it’s work time.
That got me wondering if I need something similar to put me in writing mode. When I worked outside the house, I wore clothes that were different from my weekends or evening attire. My husband dons a uniform every day. My kids strap on a backpack.

I had a—thankfully short—commute that gave me time to switch gears and get away from the physical and mental distractions of home.

I love working from home, but now I have nothing that signals the shift from “play”—laundry, dishes, email, working out—to writing. Not that I want to wear a harness while I write or be forced to leave the house every morning, but I’d like to find something that I can use no matter where I am that reminds my brain to switch gears and get to writing.

Do you use something to signal that your writing time has started? I’d love to hear what works for you.


Anonymous said...

You are an excellent writer Gwen!

anopisthographiste said...

I'd heard of this sometime back, but I actually downloaded the trial version recently and have become an instant fan, my productivity on fire.

Sounds stupid, I know. But it's a simple little program that lets you enter a time that you want to focus on---for example---your writing. You hit return and during that time you literally cannot access the net unless you reboot. Which you don't.

It works! Best $10 I ever spent. Seriously.

You can read a gazillion testimonials on it here:
(It's for PC's too, despite the name)

Heather said...

I've been my most productive when I go somewhere other than my house to write. If I am at home, even in a secluded spot, I am too distracted by my husband, animals, dust collecting on furniture, etc. to crank out much work. However, if I go to the library, a cafe, a park, etc., I get so much more done. I think I am going to try the macfreedom program - the internet lures me away from my writing no matter where I am.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Thanks, Mirella! I always appreciate your support. =)

Gwen Hernandez said...

Anopisthographiste: I've seen quite a few mentions of MacFreedom on Twitter but haven't tried it. Normally I just shut down email and Twitter and that's been working pretty well for me.

What I really need is something to switch my brain to creative mode. Thanks for stopping by!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Heather: I think I may need to resort to leaving the house too. The lazy body in me--the one who doesn't want to have to get dressed in matching clothes and comb her hair--rebels, but I should just suck it up and do it. =)

Carla Swafford said...

Strangely, I've learned I have to switch up spots to concentrate on my writing. For example, I have a small desk I moved into my study to use. After about a month, I noticed I was wasting a lot of time looking around on the net.

So I used my laptray and placed my laptop (funny that I don't place it on my lap...what little I have)on it and sat in my recliner. Then after a month, I moved back.

Recently, I bought an adjustable table tray and that's been working rather well too.

I'm on vacation and so far this week I've moved from the bedroom that had a desk to the dining room where everyone congregates. I'm one of those writers who need the energy of people talking and moving around me. Then again, others will say this is why I write so slow.

Though I have to say, my story is coming along rather well since I've been on vacation. :-)

Carla Swafford said...

I'm sorry, Gwen. I really didn't answer your post. My suggestion is to designate a couple blouses or tee shirts as your writing clothing. If it works for your husband, how about you? Being comfortable is the key for me.

And I've been following your posts on your blog about the citizen police academy. I admire you for doing that.

Carla Swafford said...

Me again. Really? Laundry and dishes are play? Really? LOL!

Gwen Hernandez said...

No problem, Carla. I definitely find that I need a new location every once in a while to get the juices flowing. I'm glad to hear the writing is going well while on vacation. Have fun!

I'll have to think about the writing outfit. A T-shirt sure beats a harness. ;-)

And the laundry and dishes as play? Total joke. I'm a horrible housekeeper, and my little minions--who are taller than me now--do their own laundry and the dinner dishes. ;-)

Louisa Cornell said...

This is an interesting blog post, Gwen. I often have trouble switching from work mode to writer mode when I get home. I am working on turning one of the bedrooms into a library - lining the walls with bookcases - no television, no distractions. I hope it may make me more productive. One thing I have been trying recently is setting a kitchen timer and putting my butt in the chair an hour at the time. At the end of the hour I have the option of setting it for another hour if things are going well OR doing something else for an hour and coming back to the writing.

Gwen Hernandez said...

A dedicated space is a good start, Louisa. I kind of have one, but it's a corner of my bedroom. Normally I wouldn't do that, but it's larger than we've ever had, it has the best light, and it's quiet. But, I get bored with it sometimes, or start to associate it with writing lectures, checking email, everything but writing.

Maybe I need one space for non-writing work, and a separate space for writing. Jeez, when are my kids moving out again? ;-)

I definitely like the timer idea. I downloaded a timer app for my Mac so I can do the same thing. Good luck!

Lisa Dunick said...

I think I have the opposite problem-- because I have so many other things going on, I always feel like I'm not working enough. I tend to get antsy when I don't feel like I'm accomplishing anything, so I'm always trying to sneak in more work here and there. I think I need to figure out a way to turn off the work and let it go for a while, because I'm not sure that the intermittent working is really helping my work be better or helping me to be more productive. I'm hoping it's better when the kids are back in school/day care and I have long lengths of time during the week when work can be my sole focus.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I know what you mean, Lisa. My problem is that a lot of my "work" doesn't contribute to getting words written. I have to segregate that stuff from the writing, research, and revisions so it doesn't eat up all of my time. =)

Chris Bailey said...

The timer thing works for me. If I have to leave the house in 40 minutes, setting a timer for 40 (or 35) minutes frees me to write without checking the clock, and I find I can relax enough to get involved in the story. If I don't need to be anywhere, I set the timer for an hour as a sort of house arrest ankle monitor, and tell myself that I can attend to all the distractions when the timer goes off. For me, it seems to be that harnessing my writing energy is a matter of shutting down the nervous energy that keeps me on high alert.

MaryC said...

Gwen, I don't know if this would work for you, but it definitely flips the switch for me.
One of the first things I do in developing a book is create a soundtrack for it - doesn't matter if it's instrumental, country, pop or rock - the only criteria is it has to make me feel the book.
When I set down to write, I hit play on iTunes and my brain switches into write mode.

I know some people are distracted by music but I find that once I hit the zone, I'm not even really conscious of it except as background.

Gwen Hernandez said...

I'm glad the timer works for you, Chris. It's good to find something!

Gwen Hernandez said...

Mary: I might try the music thing. In college I could not do anything to music, but I've found that when writing it will fade away, and sometimes even helps stimulate my brain. I just don't think about turning it on unless I need to tune out other noise.

I'll make an effort to use music every time I want to write and see how it goes. Thanks!