Friday, November 9, 2018

Romancing the Writing - How to Take Your Writing on a Date

(Setting the mood with some candles and a mysterious raven)


I think we've all heard the advice that "you need to write every day" and "you need to treat your writing like a job" and "you need to have a writing routine." I'm not saying any of this advice is wrong. I'm saying, if that works for you, do it. All of this advice is yours to keep and do with what you will. However, if you're burned out, bored, or just not getting the writing done, I say change it up! Try something flirty and adventurous with your writing!

So, like the title says, this post is about how to take your writing on a date. The nice thing about this kind of date is that it doesn't have to cost very much and you don't necessarily even have to go anywhere, unless you want to. You might need to kick other people out of the house so you and your writing can be alone together, but maybe not. Maybe you live with people who know how to keep a low profile when you're trying to get some writing action. 

Here's what you do. First of all, make plans in advance. This is not a spontaneous writing booty call. This is a respectful and loving date. Pick an evening when you can have a few hours to spend with your writing. Don't double-book your time or keep your mind open to canceling if something better comes along. Set a reasonable amount of time, like two or three hours. Anything shorter than an hour is not really giving the date a chance. And planning on a super-long date is kind of presumptuous, don't you think?

Second, create some atmosphere. If you're staying in, pick a nice room, maybe somewhere you don't usually write. Even if your space is small and you don't have a different room available, you can make the same room feel different. Clean it, tidy it, change the decorations around. If you can, add some candles or some other special lighting. Decide where you're going to sit and get that all set up with a notebook and pen, or a laptop, or a recorder to dictate into. If you only, ever, always write on a desktop computer, then you can set up your nice atmosphere wherever the computer is if you want, but may I suggest considering a temporary change of methods for the date instead? Because this is supposed to be a special night. That's your call.

If you're going out, of course, pick a place you'll enjoy and take your writing things with you. From now on I'm going to act as if this is a home date, but you know how to proceed if you're going out. Adapt ideas as necessary.

Plan out, acquire, and prepare an appetizer or small meal that feels a bit fancy. You don't have to be really extra about this, but try to make your food something you'll look forward to and enjoy. Same for what you'll drink. Something that feels a bit luxurious, whether it's hot or cold, alcoholic or non-. I like to have a glass of wine, but you can choose any kind of date-like drink you want.

Add some music and/or subtle background noise. I use my iPad to play both music from Pandora, and a loop of coffee shop background noise (people talking, cafe noises) with Coffeetivity, which can play at the same time and be adjusted so that it doesn't overwhelm the music. This really adds good atmosphere! It promotes that feeling of being somewhere else without going somewhere else. I'm pretty sure that I've also read a study that said moderate background noise can boost creativity. Almost positive that's why I got the Coffeetivity app in the first place.

You may think this is a bit over the top, but I also suggest dressing for a date, and doing whatever special-occasion things you might do with your hair, face, and body for a date. The fact that your writing isn't actually a person is not something you need to focus on right now. You're making this night special for YOU, and pretending you're going on a real and actual date. This means you can even wear whatever fragrances you want in whatever quantities you want, if you're so inclined, because you don't have to worry about anyone else's preferences (unless you're not technically alone in this scenario, but let's say you are. For the sake of my premise). You can consider comfort when deciding what to wear, but spiffing up will do things for you psychologically. You're making the effort.

All right? When it's time for your writing date - and I do hope you respect your writing enough to be on time for this - make absolutely sure that you put away your phone and stay off the internet, because scanning distracting other stuff is extremely rude and inattentive to your companion. Try to show up with some good "conversation starters," otherwise known as ideas about what you'd like to work on. Will you do some free-writing first? Or make a list of things that will happen next in your story? Maybe you'll start by writing down some questions, and then answering them. Another idea would be to pretend you're sitting across from one of your characters, getting to know them as you would while going out for dinner or drinks with someone. You could play the role of yourself, or of another character. Write down the conversation as you go. Or if you already know what's supposed to happen next in your story, you can seduce yourself into writing it down. 

Once you get to the end of the time you've set for the writing date, you can make plans for the next one, or stay with your writing longer if the evening's going really well. There's really nothing to lose by doing this. Ideally, you'll have a good time while getting some writing done, but at minimum, you'll have delicious food and a drink you enjoy in a space that you've beautified. That's a good, happiness-boosting way to spend an evening. Self-care is its own reward, and the reduction in stress will ripple through the rest of your life and the next day's writing. 

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