Clarion 2001 poster

clarion-2001-poster-framedAll the writers who taught at my Clarion did readings at the Archives Book Shop, a local bookstore in East Lansing. To advertise the readings, the Clarion office folks printed up a poster with the names and dates. And, as one of our little perks, we each got a copy signed by all the writers (and by our special guest editor).

I’ve had this poster for more than 10 years now. I always meant to get it framed so I could hang it up, but it was one of many things that I kept not getting around to. But for some reason, this past week it suddenly seemed to be the thing to get around to next, so I did. I measured the poster, went to a local shop that sells ready-made frames in standard sizes, and picked up a frame the right size. It was just what I wanted (simple, black, wood frame), but instead of a proper hanging wire, had some crappy metal bracket for hanging the picture, so I also had to buy a kit with some screw eyes and picture hanging wire, but that was cheap.

It still took a couple of days to get it all put together—picture in frame, screw eyes in frame, wire strung between screw eyes—but now it’s done.

I’m pretty pleased. Maybe having it up will help inspire me to keep at my fiction.

Click through for a picture big enough to read all the details.

Decluttering: More than a dream

workspace-2013Jackie and I have been working on decluttering the study. We’ve been at it for 3 days now, off and on, and we’re making great progress.

My own focus in the initial phase has been on my workspace. I’m pretty pleased with where I am just now.

I almost didn’t post this picture, as it looks little different from other recent pictures of my workspace, but (on the theory of “pics or it didn’t happen”) I felt like documenting the fact that I’ve actually restored my workspace to its desired uncluttered state.

The area behind me is still not up to being documented. Anyone who had seen it any time before three days ago would be impressed by how much progress we’ve made, but there’s still stacks of boxes, a stack of books, and other clutter.

I think the clutter had been weighing on me, looming up behind me, making it harder to write. Hopefully, this will help.

A slug of fiction writing

I told Jackie, “I want to get a slug of fiction writing done, and then take a nap.”

She said, “Does fiction writing naturally come in units of slugs?”

And I said, “Yes. The slug is the natural unit of fiction writing.”

So she said, “Well then, you should be sure to bring along Sigurson.”

So I went and got Sigurson to sit with me while I work on the next bit of this story.

Here’s a picture of Sigurson, sitting on a spare coaster on my desk:

Update: I wrote 745 words. Didn’t get a nap, though.

Entering flow state

I use a trick for getting into flow state.

Anybody who does creative work knows about flow state, where your surroundings vanish and for a timeless period you’re creating whatever is you create. If you’re a writer, the words just, well, flow.

Many writers have some sort of process for achieving flow state, such as a pre-writing ritual, or a specific place or specific set of tools that they reserve for their creative work.

I’ve seen working writers mock these techniques—making fun of the writer who needs the right kind of tea in the right special cup and the right ink in the right fountain pen before they can write. And I do see the mocking potential. But I find having such a process is highly effective in speeding the process of getting into flow state.

The key here is speeding. If your pre-writing ritual takes twenty minutes, it’s not likely to be faster than just starting to write. (Which is, after all, the only essential step.)

But some very short ritual, or some special place or object, if you start using it when you’re working, will become associated with entering flow state. And once it has become associated, just following it or having it or using it makes it easier and quicker to enter flow state.

In my case, it’s a vest that Jackie made me. I reserve it just for fiction writing. Having written a lot of fiction wearing that vest, just putting it on puts me in the frame of mind that I’m going to write fiction.

I can write without it. I probably write more without it than I do with it. But especially when I have only a short period of time to write, it’s worth the 30 seconds it takes to put my vest on when I sit down to write.

[Update: I just remembered that I’ve mentioned my writing vest before, in my Clarion journal, in reference to Steven Barnes talking about learning to enter flow state.]